Several things happened of note in U.S. military history on or near this date. One pretty notable thing happened 241 years ago, and a more recent one happened 32 years ago. One hit closer to home to me, so I’ll go with the more recent event.
On April 19, 1985, a career was not launched, no war began or ended, but something occurred in Leavenworth, Kansas, that in a stretch you can say sort of affected some things around the world. A stretch, and a very tenuous one.
It was on that not-so-auspicious date that fledgling newspaper columnist, yours truly, penned his very first column for the oldest paper in Kansas, the Leavenworth Times. The event had been several months in the making.
I had retired from active duty at Fort Leavenworth in June 1983 and moved to my native Alabama. Some eight months later, with no job prospects in sight, a friend from the fort called to ask my interest in a civilian job back in Bell Hall, home of CGSC, where I’d served for five years.
Sounded good to the entire family, so I applied. Of 41 applicants, I was one of the two chosen, and within a few scant weeks was en route back to River City. As I delved into the world of civilians in the Army, I went around the city reuniting with old friends. One was the late Johnny Johnston, then general manager of the Times, who said he’d be interested in some columns with my brand of a historical touch. I submitted several and all were published. On the front page no less.
One day he called and asked me to stop by his office for a chat. During the chat he asked if I’d consider becoming a weekly columnist. Since the suggestion came literally out of the blue, I had no ready reply, so he suggested I think about it and let him know. In a couple of days, he urged.
But when I went back a couple of days later, he said he’d changed his mind. I had gotten a bit excited at the challenge, and was disappointed, until he said he didn't want a column weekly, but bi-weekly ones. I immediately went from none to two a week. I quickly said yes before he changed his mind again.
So for the ensuing 31 years I’ve tried to carefully select two ideas a week that I thought people would be interested in, or upcoming events I thought people might want to know about. Words I can handle, but math is not my thing, so I have no idea how many biweekly columns I’ve had published over the past 31 years. I’m sure it’s a bunch.
I’m proud of the fact I’ve never missed a deadline, although there have been a few very close calls. I’m sure that my long tenure as a columnist played a large part in my being selected as Leavenworth’s Humanitarian of the Year in 2013, and am quite proud of the certificates from both the Kansas House and Senate commending me for 30 years as a columnist in 2015.
What does the future hold? No one knows. But my health remains good, notwithstanding a report from the VA that I’ve been confirmed as having Agent Orange due to a long ago visit in a hostile environment in Southeast Asia.
In my view, as long as the Times keeps publishing what I submit, and as long as the ideas keep flowing, and as long as health and interest remain good, I plan to keep on keeping on, as lyrics to an old song said. Year 32, we are off and running. Oh, and the event 241 years ago was Paul Revere’s ride. That was pretty important also.
John Reichley is a retired Army officer and Department of the Army civilian employee.