Following the Braid of Life
Joseph Thomas (Nadolski) ’71
The first draft lottery for military service during the Vietnam War was not my lucky night. My low number meant I had one of four choices: go as a draftee, volunteer for a branch of the military, head for Canada or invent a deferment.
Although I had envisioned a career in journalism, Bradley’s then-president, Talman Van Arsdale (a former Navy combat pilot) helped me form the attitude and perspective to be an officer. Just 10 days after graduation I was on my way for more than 18 months of training to become a paratrooper platoon leader in the 82nd Airborne Division.
“My history professors taught that the crises we face are the dynamic of their antecedent.”
This was a different and unexpected strand in my life.
Eventually, I was able to use my Bradley education in the Navy as a public information officer (PIO). After my discharge, the three years I spent as a journalism major and my two-month PIO training were key factors in my qualifying for a similar position at the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky.
I built a communication net with the area’s news media. The writing and analytical skills I developed with help from journalism professor Paul Snider led me through the challenge of writing an environmental report that gained national attention. Because there were no errors, it held up all the way through the federal appellate court and saved the Beaver Creek Wilderness Area from death by bulldozers.
My history professors — Charles Simmons, Lester Brune and Gregory Guzman — taught the crises we face are the dynamic of their antecedents. The opportunities are in understanding these antecedents, and one’s ignorance of them often leads to pain and disaster. Providing that historical perspective in another environmental report I wrote led Congress to create the Red River Gorge National Geologic Area, which saved it from inundation behind a dam.
In 1980 I went to Seattle, where I became the public information manager in the USFS response to the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. We spent the next six days working 12-hour shifts. There was no room for errors in the timely information we distributed since it allowed organizations to manage their responses to this catastrophic event.
There were more strands added through the decades. Some 25 years ago the braid led my wife, Claudia, who then was a historian-psychologist-artist, and I to a village near Mexico City. Today we serve as licensed homeopathic health specialists where our understanding of pre-Columbian and modern history aids our daily life. It also helps to heal our neighbors’ health crises.
With a nearly 50-year hindsight, I would share my examples to encourage you to pull in every experience valuable to your vision of life and well beyond it. This holds especially true for those still at Bradley, where there is a special wealth of wisdom and experience, as much as a safety net. The twists and turns ahead may very well call you to refine and use them.