A Priceless Gift

When I Was Twenty-Two …

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

When I was twenty-two, America gave me one of the most precious gifts I have received in my almost 75 years of life. In many ways, it was the gift that enabled me to receive all the other amazing gifts that have come to me since — a wonderful wife and family, caring and steadfast friends, a long and fulfilling career, and sufficient good health to take joy in them all.

At the time I received this priceless gift, it seemed hardly a gift at all. I almost didn’t accept it. After all, I was young and foolish. What did I know? So what was this was this priceless gift?

I was a 22-year old Army Lieutenant in 1968 when my country dropped me into the rice paddies of the Vietnam War. The gift was a choice of the world I would inhabit for the rest of my life. I could look reality in the eye, learn how to deal with it, and keep myself and those for whom I was responsible as safe as possible — or I could try to bend reality into what I thought it ought to be and die. I chose to embrace the real reality. I chose to seek out the facts, continuously re-evaluate those facts and my assumptions, and adapt my thinking and actions accordingly. In the real world, there are no alternative facts.

As I’ve watched my country being torn apart by senseless conflict because of baseless irrational conspiracy theories, false assumptions, wishful thinking, and self-delusion, I often wish that more of my fellow Americans had received that priceless gift.

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