Over the last few months as I have transitioned away from being a graduate student, I have thought about my time at the Kennedy School. And – while many students shaped my experience – three, in particular, left a mark on me.
At first it may seem a bit odd to group these three men together, because in many ways they are quite different from one another, but Will, Caleb and Dave were the three members of the US Army in my smaller cohort of students. Often, they were first to class – strategically positioned in the back row – secretly, or not so secretly, judging all of us for not having our act together well enough to get to class on time.
I was drawn to each of them for things that were distinct from their service – Caleb for his value on family and his faith, Dave for his fascination and frustration with the political balance at the school (and our shared love of trying new beers), and Will for the value he placed on cultivating friendship and sharing a meal around a table together.
Each of these men left a mark on my heart in some way – though, they will laugh at my civilian ways and perspective and perhaps my mushy way of putting it. But even more importantly, they were my first close connection to active duty servicemen and servicewomen in a long while. And, as Will reminded me last Veteran’s Day, that connection with veterans and active duty members of the military may be more important now than ever before. I’m incredibly proud to know each of them, and knowing that they serve our nation through the Armed Forces gives me greater faith in our military and the future leaders of this country.
I’m grateful for Caleb, Dave, Will and the many other members of our military this Veteran’s Day.
To close, I’ll share an excerpt from a letter I sent on Will’s behalf last spring, and I hope it shows what an important role he – and other members of our military – play in inspiring my own drive to serve in a civilian role:
“I’ve been reflecting on the past two years as my time at the Kennedy School draws to a close. While there are many classes and people who have shaped my experience here, Will is one of the few classmates who has both shaped my worldview and become a friend whom my husband, Tom, and I will keep for life.
The entirety of Will’s career has been dedicated to serving our nation. After graduating from West Point, Will served two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and took on additional responsibilities as a Company Executive Officer—and later an Intelligence Officer and Company Commander—at Fort Carson in Colorado.
Will’s sense of civic responsibility and leadership, however, extend beyond active duty. During his time at HKS, Will has worked to build stronger civilian-army relationships and has advocated on behalf of our nation’s servicemen and women. Last Veteran’s Day he authored an op-ed in the Boston Herald calling on all our citizens to engage in deeper conversations with military members. He wrote: “Our country shares a moral responsibility for what we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan, for good and bad. The weight should not be something that our veterans carry alone—sharing this load is the greatest thanks we can give them.”
[…] Will has also pushed me to think more deeply about my own commitment to this country and how I might fully—and successfully— lead a life of public service. I am proud to call him a fellow soon-to-be HKS alum, a fellow world citizen, and, most importantly, a friend. Will’s generosity and kindness has meant much to my family these past two years, and we are better for knowing him.
Happy Veteran’s Day.