ME: I got a book deal!
COMMANDER: Outstanding! We’re proud of you!
ME: I’m moving to New York City!
COMMANDER: I know that’s where your heart was calling you, Lieutenant, glad to see you’re making it happen.
ME: I’m getting rid of my car!
COMMANDER: I applaud your sense of fiscal and environmental responsibility.
ME: So, you’re going to transfer my billet to Sector New York, right?
COMMANDER: Absolutely not. You’re an officer. Find a way to get your ass down here until your tour is up and you’re due to rotate.
I’m kidding, of course. They’re *trying* to help me make a transfer, but this is the thing when you take the king’s silver — you serve the king’s will. A military commitment means that you bend to the needs of the service. It’s a valuable lesson — it reminds you daily that there are systems and institutions in life that aren’t built around your needs and that you have to be able to accommodate others even when it’s inconvenient (or even painful) for you. It keeps you humble and adaptable and is one of the many gains I get from serving.
So, bottom line is that I’m off to stand my watch far from home. I’ll be gone for a while, which means a dropoff in my social media activity and possibly my ability to update here. It may even mean a pause in my progress on FORTRESS FRONTIER (I finished a first draft a few days ago, and am now about to tuck into the rewriting/revising process).
But that’s as it should be. Ron Collins once told me that writers have to live life like they’re hunting it, and the experiences I have while standing behind the shield are the building blocks of a compelling narrative. It’s tough to be a good writer when you lead a boring life, and I can think of few things more interesting than kicking down hatches and searching for drugs, guns and the victims of human trafficking.
Military service also gives me that electric jolt of real volunteerism. I understand that increasing awareness and donating money and marching and chanting are all part of the machine that churns to right the world. But there’s a visceral punch you get from knowing that you’re using your own ass as collateral in an effort to make the world a better place. Nobody wants to get hurt in the line of duty. But we’re willing to, if that’s what it takes. I would never turn my nose up at pacifist activists, but armed service is what I have to do to feel like I’m making a difference.
So, my brothers, my sisters, my best-beloved. I have the watch. No harm will come to you while I stand it. My life on it.