When I was a child I had an ambition to know everything I could about the Great War, the War of Northern Aggression, the Second American Revolution, the Lost Cause. All these things were one, the War Between the States. I read books, bought books, watched TV shows, movies, perused official records, anything I could get my hands on. I spent more time in the 900s of the library than any third, fourth or fifth grader that didn't have a report to write. In addition to the fact that I am the only person I know to have his own personal unabridged dictionary setting on a shelf at home, I remain the only person I know who was able to not only write an eleventh grade term paper using only books from my own shelves (without using even my Dad's library to get the right number of references), but also helped another friend the next year write a different paper using only books on my shelves for references. For a time I added my initials (JEB) after my name to emulate James Ewell Brown Stuart. While I had a dog named Beauregard, it was a hand-me-down from an uncle that moved, but I still desire to have a dog named Pierre Gustav Toussant Beauregard because there are few people who know that was what the initials stood for. Unrelated interesting fact, PGT Beauregard used the 19th century equivalent of Grecian Formula 44 but once the blockade kicked in he could no longer get it imported. As a result people believed it was the war that caused his hair to turn gray. During a tour of the Alabama State Archives I rattled off enough facts (not only about the WBTS) that no one believed it was my first tour and afterwords the guide asked me if I wanted a job as a tour guide. Few people knew that the Confederate Vice President, Alexander Stevens, was the leading opposition to the anti-Jefferson Davis group hating everything he did. On a tour of the US Capitol, I entered the Hall of Heroes. Each State has 2 statues in the Capitol, many of the Southern States have statues in their Confederate Uniforms. One of Mississippi's (Davis) sits in a pose similar to Lincoln in his Memorial directly across the room from, and staring perpetually at a similarly posed statue from Tennessee, Alexander Stevens. A point my guide at the time did not think nearly as funny as me, but decided to include it in his repertoire for future tours nonetheless.
In college I took one class simply because it was a pre-requisite to take a 400 level class on the war. The "textbook" for the 400 level class was James Macpherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. I went home the first weekend to pluck it from my shelf and had the only hardback copy in the class--including the professor's copy. At the end of the class two things happened. One I was the only person besides the professor to have read every single word cover to cover. The second was that I gave up seeking knowledge of the war because I now know more about the war than anyone who does not have the initials PhD after their name.
One of the most famous men to come from the story of the war is Robert E. Lee. Few people know that he was only the Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate forces from February of 65 until the end of the war because the Confederate Constitution (which I read every word of) gave the job to Jefferson Davis. Lee was in the US Army Corps of Engineers. As a result, I wanted to be also. Years later I got the desire to design roller coasters and decided I wanted to be a civil engineer, but the desire to be in the Corps out dates my desire to be an engineer. When interviewing for my current job (with the Corps) I had to relay the fact that I did not know the Army way of doing things, but had an excellent grasp of the civilian way of doing them. At the end of the interview I was asked if there was anything else I wanted to tell the interviewers that would convince them I was the right person for the job. My response was as follows:
I don't know that it helps explain why you should hire me, but it goes to my motive for applying. I have wanted to be in the Corps almost as long as I have wanted to be an engineer. When I went into the Army I chose the Army specifically to be in the Corps. The only Corps jobs opened were heavy equipment operators or repairers so instead I became a Field Artillery Surveyor because at least that way I was doing an engineering related job.
Two months after I was hired my boss told me that he remembered that statement. He had desired a different candidate for the job, but remembered that statement. He did not know if I had just said it to get the job or meant it, but now knows the truth of desiring to be in the Corps longer then being an engineer.
Recently I have been given an opportunity to return to the Coast with the Corps. I will soon be back doing what I always wanted, where I first desired to do it. A part of a circuitous path that comes around. Ambition and serendipitous action, two defining words that demonstrate where I am today.