For those who aren’t following me on Facebook or Twitter—see what I did there?—I am finally home after three weeks at Fort Leavenworth, KS. I was there to take a couple of classes in preparation for some upcoming work stuff, and like all work trips, there was some really useful stuff … and some stuff that was less than useful. And also some cool stuff. Like this picture of a statue of Ulysses S Grant.
I am an admirer of Grant, an admiration passed down almost genetically from my Dad who, when I joined the Army and went on my first deployment, mailed me his beloved copy of Grant’s biography with strict instructions not to let anything happen to it. I and the book made it home in piece—I was never sure of which of us he was more relieved. For three weeks, I told my boss, with whom I was commuting, that I wanted to stop and take a picture. On the very last day, we stopped, hopped out, and I got my picture to email to my Dad. I think he got a kick out of it.
During this process of deciding to get out of the Army, and then going ahead and putting in the paperwork to do so, I often thought of Grant. Not necessarily the battle-winning, audaciously-leading, unconditional-surrender-demanding leader of the Civil War, but of Grant before and after the War, when he was away from the immediate, challenging demands of kinetic action (or, as they called it back then, just “fighting”). Historical judgments on his Presidency aside, he was a man of letters and education, and instead of fading away, like so many old Soldiers, he left a literary legacy of thoughtful and insightful essays, articles, and of course, his Autobiography. I sometimes wonder what it would be like today if more retired military leaders spent time crafting thoughtful literature and less time as cheap bait for ideologically-slanted news commentary shows.
I suppose I didn’t start this blog post meaning to talk exclusively about GEN Grant. But now that I’ve started, it seems like a good place to leave it. Perhaps I’ll dust off that old essay I started a few years ago and finish it up. But until then, it’s unpacking suitcases, washing uniforms, and getting ready to head back into work Monday to see what’s been going on while we’ve been away.