"A very different sort of war story." Kirkus Reviews
"A dramatic tale told with flair." Publishers Weekly
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The thrilling and incredible true story of a man who stood by his convictions and blew the lid off a top-secret project and discovered a new universe of life and thought.
"A very different sort of war story." Kirkus Reviews
"A dramatic tale told with flair." Publishers Weekly
I spent my childhood in the army; I was a young nomad, traveling from post to post with my family. I knew nothing of life except what a soldier and a soldier's wife taught me, and I never consciously expected to be anything but a soldier. When I was young I played games with soldiers' children, and we always imitated our fathers. We were very proud of them even though we seldom saw them. Photographs from my youth are filled with images of plastic weapons, with miniature vehicles painted olive green with the words "U.S. Army" emblazoned on them. Every aspect of my young life centered on the army, its way of life, its weapons and equipment. By the age of four I could name most of the major exterior components of the army's current tank.
It was a life where you respected the authority of your father even though he was only an occasional presence. You learned to love the fading mental picture rather than the physical existence. You could say I was raised in a era of patriotism and service to the nation, an era that would pass, as I grew older, into a generation where outward rebellion was in vogue.
My patriotic conviction drained from me under the steady pull of popular opinion, and what I had been taught to hold sacred gradually faded away into the fog of my teens. I finally succumbed to the tide of opprobrium against the war in Vietnam in 1970. During the conflict I opposed the traditions of my family, as I guess all children eventually do (at least that's holding true for my son). I grew my hair long, wore clothing that would have fit well in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, and essentially did anything that I thought might annoy my parents. Frankly, I'm surprised that I survived those years.
In high school I spun from one focus to another, giving little thought to what the future held. My first year out of high school I spent doing pretty much nothing. I worked as a lifeguard and went rock climbing with my brother. I enrolled in a small community college, Mira Costa. Eventually I ran for and was elected president of the student body, which in turn led to a scholarship at a larger university. I also joined the Mormon church while I was there. Even though I was very much opposed to organized religion, the Mormon faith made sense to me, and I became a convert several months later. That was my first experience with institutional religion.
Since my future had basically been handed to me, I'd never really concentrated on what else I might do. However, one thing was clear at this point: I had to move on. I sensed there was more for me somewhere out there, and I had to go and find it. Perhaps that is why I never earnestly tried to become a doctor, or a lawyer, or anything other than a soldier. Despite the gap I'd engineered between myself and my family, I think I always knew deep in the recesses of my mind that I had a destiny. We all have a destiny, and one fall day in 1975 I recognized mine.
Planning on becoming a medical doctor, I attended Brigham Young University on a student leadership scholarship. I scheduled pre-med classes, told people of my plans, and so on. Fate confronted me high on a mountain overlooking Provo, Utah. Above the campus is a giant "Y," the collegiate symbol of Brigham Young University. This "Y" requires a coat of whitewash every year to keep it visible to the entire valley. Hundreds of students form an old-fashioned bucket brigade and pass the heavy containers of slopping whitewash up a winding narrow trail, while an unlucky few sling the messy goop onto the rocks that form the "Y." It was rumored among freshmen that this was a good place to "meet a mate." I had a hard time understanding this "mate" thing. At BYU the concept of "date" and "mate" were often confused, as far as I was concerned. However, it didn't take me long to figure out that things at this university tended to be looked at in "eternal" terms. After all, BYU was a church school. People got married, settled down, had children ... and still went to school. I was new to this way of life, and a date sounded much better than a mate. But I gathered my courage, convincing myself that I would not succumb to the "mate" philosophy, and cautiously accompanied several friends to join the festivity.
There were plenty of women there all right, but we were all so busy huffing and puffing and slinging those nasty buckets that few if any of us ever had the time or the breath to speak. By the time there was a moment for reflection, the day was nearly gone and I was covered head to toe with dirt and sweat and whitewash.
I had managed to work my way toward the top of the bucket line, and as the final buckets of wash were scattered onto the rocks I turned for the first time to look out at the beautiful valley behind me. It was a stunning and wondrous place. At that moment I realized what the first Mormon settlers must have felt when they cast their gaze on it so many decades ago, and I welled up with an unexplained peace.
Wiping the sweat from my brow with the back of a painted hand, I saw him — an army colonel standing there with the sun at his back, talking to a much younger man who was in fatigues as well. As ridiculous as it might sound, what I saw struck a chord. In all the confusion a nineteen-year-old man experiences, seeing this officer was like coming home again. I suddenly knew that my future was standing there in front of me. I joined the army ROTC program the next day.
I loved being a cadet. I'd never felt so much in the right place. I learned more about myself in those few short years than I'd ever thought possible. I experienced the army, and the dedication and service it requires, from a new perspective. I was educated by good men, who saw my potential and mentored me from the beginning, picking up where my father had been forced, by my adolescent rebellion, to leave off.
My father taught me how to understand and be sensitive to others, which is probably the most critical aspect of leadership. Without it you are only a manager; that's the plight of many of today's military executives. These men taught me how to lead. They shared with me the intimate experiences of battle, often bringing tears to my eyes. All of this they did with a spirit I have never before or since witnessed. They taught me to be an officer.
There were others at this time in my life. I remember Wayne Rudy, a World War II veteran whom I worked for in the cadet supply room. Mr. Rudy was an intense but loving man who gave me daily lectures on everything under the sun, but mostly about leadership, courage, and the love of service. He often spoke of his son, who was a church missionary. As fate would have it, the son was killed in a car accident less than two months after returning from his mission. Mr. Rudy was devastated, but just when I expected to see everything in him fall apart, he rose up in defiance, understanding, and spirit to such a degree that he cast a positive glow across the entire episode. It was he who gave comfort to the grieving, it was he who explained the reason for the death, and it was he who helped everyone to understand the nature of tragedy and its place in life's pattern. He was a marvelous man, a man who helped set the stage for what I became.
Then there were my cadet friends, who have surely forgotten me over the years, but to whom I will forever be indebted for their lessons and examples. This was a good time in my life, a time where I felt proud and invincible, and closer to the truth than I'd ever been. These people seemed to bring out the best in me, and I loved being around them. So much was changing, and so quickly.
There was, however, one other inevitability; it was the issue of a mate. I'd bet my father two hundred dollars that I wouldn't get married until I was twenty-one. I absolutely wasn't in the market for anything steady.
One of my roommates, a guy by the name of Mike Sea-wright, owed a hometown girl a favor. She had previously arranged a date for him which had gone well, and now it was his turn to reciprocate. He set me up on a blind date with a woman by the name of Debbie Bosch. Reluctantly, I trudged to her dorm, not knowing what to expect. Standing in front of her dorm room, I sighed and knocked. The door opened just enough for a pretty face to peer through the small vertical crack, and smile.
I smiled back, elated that she didn't have a horn growing from her forehead.
"Debbie?" I asked.
"Debbie will be right out," the face announced. The pretty head disappeared as the door was quickly closed.
I shook my head. What the hell was I doing this for? I was certain that the scout was now informing an ugly duckling that I was an appropriate mate. I was half turned away when the door opened.
"Hi, I'm Debbie," said a soft voice.
I turned to see an outstretched hand welcoming me.
"You must be David. Mike told me a lot about you. Won't you come in? I'd like you to meet my roommates."
I couldn't speak. I just nodded like a fool and followed her in. I don't remember much about her roommates; in fact, I don't even recall speaking to them. All I saw was Debbie. She was a beautiful brunette, with dark, loving eyes that sparkled with purity. She hailed from rural Worland, Wyoming, where she was homecoming queen, valedictorian of her high school class, and winner of a presidential scholarship to BYU.
I'd never met anyone like her, and from that moment on I followed her like a puppy. I called her every chance I had, sent flowers, even showed up on her doorstep unannounced. I don't think I'd ever been in love before, so I wasn't exactly sure what was going on with me. I just knew that this was a very special and exciting woman, and I never wanted to let her out of my sight. I had to do something creative, something drastic — and fast, before I lost her.
One night, three months after meeting Debbie, I called and asked her for a date, a quiet, romantic dinner. I told her to dress nicely, because we were going to one of the finest restaurants Provo had to offer. With the help of four whiting friends, I dragged a cardboard box to her dorm and set it up in the lobby. I covered it with a red-and-white-checked tablecloth and lit two candles for atmosphere. I positioned two chairs on either side of the makeshift table and turned on the cassette player, which shrieked a not-so-good copy of some Neil Diamond ballad. My friends took up their posts to give us some privacy, and I knocked on the door to retrieve Debbie.
She looked radiant, and I was nervous as hell about what I was doing. Naturally she thought I was taking her out for dinner; when I seated her in the lobby and pushed her chair closer to the paper table that had been set for her, the look on her face was priceless. I seated myself as one of my friends appeared in a suit with a white terrycloth towel draped over his arm.
"Some sparkling cider for Madam?" he asked, not waiting for a response and slopping the beverage over the edge of the foam cup and onto the table.
Debbie was tight-lipped, her arms folded tightly across her chest.
"Is everything okay?"
She snapped, "Exactly what are you up to?"
I was off to a slow start and sinking fast. I knew it ... so did my buddies. I could see it in their faces. One of them approached us with the menus, which were hand-drawn and listed the preselected bill of fare. Another delivered a dozen red roses while simultaneously turning up the volume on the cassette player. I was gaining ground again ... Debbie was smiling.
She stared at the menu I had prepared. "What's this ... spiced beef?"
"It's a specialty. I hope you like it." I bit my lip trying not to laugh. I snapped my fingers in the air, and the waiter returned with a folding TV tray and two boxes of C rations. He snapped the tray into position and immediately began wrenching open the cans of vile-smelling military rations. With a fork stolen from the cafeteria he pried out the contents, which fell onto the paper plate like dog food. He mashed it down and presented it to Debbie.
She stared at it for a moment and looked at me, hard. "Do you expect me to eat this?"
"Yes," I said as my meal was placed in front of me. "It's good — try it." She stared at it again, poked at it with her fork, and to my surprise, took a small bite. I knew then that I'd made the right choice in this woman. Anybody who would put up with this was very special indeed.
We "dined" for hours. C ration crackers for bread, canned lima beans for vegetables, and canned fruit cocktail poured over canned maple-nut cake for dessert. We listened to that Neil Diamond tape over and over again. My friends whisked away the paper plates and turned Neil over one last time ... and then disappeared.
We held hands talking for a while. Then I took a deep breath and knelt beside her, trying to be composed and romantic. "Debbie," I said, my voice cracking, "I've never done this before...."
"Of course you haven't." She smiled. "You're only twenty. Unless there's something I don't know about you."
"No, no, I've really never done this before. So I don't know if I'm doing it right ... or what you expect."
It was obvious that I was struggling. "Somehow, David, I think you will always do what I least expect. ... But I love you anyway."
I took a deep breath. "I love you, too. And I want to marry you — that is, if you'll have me. All I'll ever be is a soldier, and all I can promise you is that you'll move every three years, and live in crummy places, and ..."
She put her fingers on my lips, "Shhh, it's okay. Wherever it is, we'll make it a home."
The feeling of peace was overwhelming. I was scared, but I was calm. I knew this was right; I just didn't know how I was going to do it. I'd not given much thought to being a husband before now, and I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do next. I didn't even have a ring. I couldn't afford a full tank of gas; how was I supposed to finance a ring? My mind was racing. I took a deep breath, we kissed, and went for a walk in the brisk night air. My friends remained to clean up the mess, grinning in victory. I'll never forget them.
Debbie and I were married April 22, 1975, in the temple at Manti, Utah. Exactly nine months later, Debbie bore us a beautiful baby boy whom we named Michael. Our lives changed forever on that day. My world was coming together fast. I was a father, and I cherished every second of it. I wasn't very good at diapers, but I was good at getting up at night, being blanketed with vomit, stuff like that. I loved being a dad, even if I was petrified. There we were, sophomores in college, married and parents. The sacrifices had only just begun.
Debbie was a wonderful army wife, even when I was just a cadet. She supported me in virtually every possible way, which was not the case with all spouses. In the years to come Debbie and I watched as many marriages of many of our friends fell by the wayside because of the stresses and trials of army life. Being a soldier isn't easy, but being a soldier's wife is more difficult still. It's a team effort if you are to succeed; both must believe in the profession and believe that it will always take care of you. You overlook the bad — the loneliness, the cramped quarters, the mediocre hospitals, and the lousy pay — because you believe in the greater good of what you are doing. You call yourselves patriots — and Debbie was as much a patriot as I ever was. You trust that your comrades will always be that, comrades, and that they will be there if and when you ever need them. That was the army my father told me about; that was the army Debbie and I believed in and sacrificed for.
In the first ten years of our marriage we moved seven times, living in everything from roach-infested apartments to incredibly cramped military quarters. I remember the two of us laughing on the front lawn of our quarters in Savannah, Georgia, when we had every inch of floor space covered with furniture and half of the house was still on the truck. Have you ever tried to put a family of five in less than a thousand square feet of living space? It's a challenge.
I was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry on April 16, 1979, and immediately entered active duty. Debbie and my father pinned the lieutenant's bars on my epaulets. I wept at the pride in my father's eyes. Because of my success as a cadet I was granted a regular army commission and designated a Distinguished Military Graduate. I won the General George C. Marshall Award, given to the top graduating cadet of the university. I was also chosen by a national review board to be the recipient of the national Dr. Ralph D. Mershon Award, which is given to the number one cadet among the 2,500 officers who receive regular army commissions. In retrospect, none of that was worth the price of a soda, but it seemed to be setting the stage for me.
From the beginning it was clear that my father had trained me well. Maybe success comes from simply following one's destiny. I graduated from the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1979, and was the Honor Graduate of my class. While we awaited orders to our first duty station, I attended the army Pathfinder school, again becoming the Distinguished Honor Graduate. I finished my basic officer professional instruction with the Infantry Mortar Platoon Leaders Course, and then Debbie, little Michael, and I reported to my initial assignment in the Republic of Panama, in November 1979.
Excerpted from Psychic Warrior by David Morehouse. Copyright © 1996 David Allen Morehouse. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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David Morehouse's military accomplishments include being selected as the top cadet commissioned into the regular Army in 1979-from over 2,500 cadets. He served as aide-de-camp for two Commanding Generals, commanded the Army's only separate Airborne Rifle Company, as well as an elite Airborne Ranger Company. He was second in command of the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and is highly decorated with numerous Defense, Joint, and Army commendations. He is a special operations infantryman whose combat special skills include the Master Parachutist Badge, Underwater Operations, Pathfinder Badge, and the coveted Ranger Tab. He has been awarded jump wings from six foreign nations.
He holds a masters degree in Military Arts and Science from the US Army's Command and General Staff College, and a doctorate in Education from LaSalle University. He writes and lectures on issues of global peace, and is the author of Nonlethal Weapons: War Without Death, published by Praeger Press. He was most recently invited to attend the Mikhail Gorbachev Foundation's 1995 State of the World Forum, where he served as a speaker and panel member for issues surrounding new approaches to conflict resolution in the coming millennium.
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