On School Shooters – The Huffington Post Doesn’t Want You To Read This

As an educator, outdoorsman, and most importantly, a father, this sums up what I have thought all along.

Peter Brown Hoffmeister

After the Huffington Post signed me on as a blogger and allowed me to write op-ed pieces on any topic, for two years, ranging from books to sports to reviews to pop culture, something changed in our relationship. It was sudden.
I wrote this piece for Huff Po in late December, 2012.  For some reason, the editors wouldn’t print it. Like every other article I’d written, I submitted the piece on their backstage for signed bloggers, but nothing happened. It didn’t go up on their site. I waited, and it didn’t happen.
A few days went by. Then a week. I contacted the editors, and they didn’t respond.  Then I contacted again, and they let me know that they wouldn’t publish the piece.
I asked why.
No response.
I emailed again.
No response again.
And now they won’t let me write anything at all. I’m off the blogroll.
So I…

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Comet Viewing

Last night the kids and I went looking for comet Pan-STARRS in the western sky.  The day had been partly cloudy, and I worried that we would miss this event.  But at around 7:00 PM the skies looked clear.  So we jumped into the van and headed to the kids’ grandparent’s house where there was an unobstructed view of the horizon.  And they have a telescope too!  So we set up the telescope and brought out a couple pairs of binoculars.

Slowly the thin sliver of the crescent moon emerged.  It was magnificant! But we were waiting for something more elusive.  Finally, the small smudge of light appeared.  We quickly aimed the telescope toward the cosmic wonder.  It was amazing to see.  And I was just as excited for my children to witness the comet as I was.

The telescope provided a good view, but my favorite view was through small binoculars.  I could see the moon and the comet in the same view!  I loved hearing my kids ooh and awe at the sight.

After the comet disappeared in the haze near the horizon, we turned the telescope on to the stars.  I even caught two satelites passing across the sky.

It turned out to be a great evening.  We’ll keep tracking the comet for as long as we can each evening.

It’s an amazing opportunity to witness the wonders of the universe.

Friday Free For All: Why I Joined the National Guard

Below is the autobiography I wrote for Officer Candidate School. It explains my motives for joining the National Guard.  I thought I would share it with you here. (I have removed some personal identifiable information.)

“Hey, I’ve been thinking about joining the Army,” I told an old college buddy one afternoon.

“That’s some serious stuff,” was all the reply he could muster.

But his eyes said what his mouth didn’t: Why the hell would you want to do that? Indeed, why would a then 36-year-old father of four leave the comfort of career and home to become a soldier?  It would be easy to say that joining the army has always been something I wanted to do.  Of course, the real motivation runs deeper than that.  The answers to his unspoken question lay in the life experiences that made me who I am.  And they are what propelled me to one of the most important decisions of my life.

I was born . . .  in Provo, Utah. The first child in a  strong Mormon family, I grew up to be a dutiful son. My parents, who were both school teachers, instilled values of hard work, service, and education. And my mother especially insisted on good manners too. After my father graduated from BYU we moved to Sunset, Utah only a few miles away from Hill Air Force Base. Watching those F-4 Phantom jets screaming overhead daily amazed and excited me. And watching World War II war birds like the P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lighting in mock dog fights with Japanese Zeros at the annual air shows sparked my interest in military things. I thought they were the coolest things in the world.

We moved from Utah to . . .  Missouri when I was eight. I spent my adolescence during the 80s—the climax of the Cold War. Our military was strong, communists were evil, and U2 was the greatest rock band ever—things were so black and white for me then. I was a serious kid. While other boys were talking sports or muscle cars, I was poring over books and debating politics with friends. We would talk about ICBMs, nuclear winter, and Mutually Assured destruction.

My father also influenced my keen interest in military subjects. He was drafted into the army during the Viet Nam War, and he was stationed in Germany. He didn’t talk much about his Army experiences except to say that they helped him gain self-discipline. I remember looking through his old army stuff. His field jacket had a cool looking unit patch on it. To think that my dad was once a soldier filled me with pride, and I wanted to be like him.

After high school I served a two-year mission for my church in Brazil.  When I returned home I went off to BYU ready to get on with life. I flirted with the possibility of joining the army once during that time. But my father wisely advised, “There are easier ways to earn money for college. ” However, my dad leaving the door open said, “But you may like it—blowing things up is kind of fun.” My hopes were quickly squashed when the recruiter told me my childhood asthma disqualified me.

After some academic setbacks at BYU I returned to Missouri. I took a year off to work and to decide what I really wanted to do with my life. I went back to school in 1997, and four years later I graduated from Southwest Missouri State University. During that time I married my wife who happened to be in the Missouri National Guard.

I took my first job hopeful of bright teaching career. But on September 11, 2001 I watched with my students as the twin towers collapsed. I stood in shock wondering how different the world would be from that moment on. In the fervor of nationalism that followed the attacks, I wanted to join the military.  But like before, it was nothing more than wishful thinking. It was too late for me, I thought. I was too old, and I felt my duty was to my growing family.

The military has always been in the back of my mind, but that desire crystallized into a clear purpose in late 2006. My wife received several National Guard magazines. I happened to read that the army raised the enlistment age from 32 to 42. The wheels in my head immediately started spinning. What if? I asked myself. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t at least try. And it seemed like everything pointed me toward the army. For example, I read about a 42-year-old local journalist who left his career and enlisted. This inspired me, and again I felt a tug in my heart.

My college friend was right. It was serious stuff, and I have never taken a decision so seriously in my life. I had to know if a 36-year-old could make it in a young man’s army. And most importantly, I had to know that my family would be cared for during the long absences that inevitably would come. I broached the subject with my wife and explained my reasons: I felt it was my duty, and I felt the leadership training I would receive would make me a better father, husband, and teacher. This would be my only chance. My wife readily supported me and said, “Ok if you’re going to do this, you’re going to be an officer.” I prayed about it, and I knew that I was making the right decision.  However, because of contractual obligations to my school, I had to wait another year before I could join. But nothing could stop me now.

On May 22, 2008 I swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America. Only months away from my 38th birthday, I entered Basic Training at Ft. Benning, Georgia. I answered the call of duty. I wanted to take my turn—to let someone else have a chance to come home.

I’m a celebrity! Check out BrotherJon’s interview with your’s truly!

Hello, Old Friend.

The rehabilitation after my knee surgery has been a lot slower and more difficult than I thought.  After over a year of no physical conditioning my body and mind are weak.  I’m starting from zero. My motivation is flagging, and I’ve been too quick to make excuses.

I’ve realized that the rehab goes beyond my knee. It includes my mind.  And my mind is much harder to train than my muscles.

Last night I ran/walked for 30 minutes on the treadmill.  Nothing to brag about, I know. But when I ran, I really ran. I had the machine cranked up to 10! I ran for as long as I could at that pace, and when I couldn’t any longer I walked for a few minutes.  Then I would do it again.

My lungs burned, and my legs ached. (My knee felt great though.)  A few times I wanted to vomit.  But I kept pushing myself.

I’d forgotten what that felt like–to push myself.  I missed that feeling.  Yes, it hurt, but it was a good hurt.

I usually try to avoid pain.  But I’m willing to experience it to improve myself by it.  In Officer Candidate School we called it “embracing the suck.”

I don’t want to be better than everyone else. (That’s really a lie.)  I want to be better than myself.

So I welcome pain like I do a dear friend that I haven’t seen in years.

Hello, old friend.  It’s been a while.  Let’s get re-acquainted.