Your father was bound to the military not only by a sense of duty, but because it had expanded his world. The soldiers he trained, and trained with, came from coal mining towns in West Virginia, the Bronx in New York City, seaside villages in Puerto Rico. He met former surfers, men who shared his love for the Bible, and women he revered for excelling in a male-dominated institution. He traveled through Europe while stationed in Germany. He practiced his Spanish while working with Cuban refugees at Guantanamo Bay. He wrote in the journal:
Enlisting in the army was one of the best decisions I had ever made in my life. God blessed me above all I could imagine. Like anything, you have some challenging days, but when I look back I have no regrets. The army even recognized my artistic abilities. I also met a lot of great people. It's been an awesome experience. Thanks, God.
But those were peacetime experiences. The military had also introduced Charles to killing and death. The sight of blood gave him flashbacks. Chemical sprays he received during the First Gulf War left permanent splotches on his arms. For years he was haunted by images of combat, unable to speak about them even to me.