It’s not whom you know that counts; it’s whom you’re thrust beside.
The Class of 1915 at West Point included Omar Bradley, Dwight Eisenhower, two others who became four-star generals, seven who won three stars and 48 who attained the rank of general.
On the same Silver Lake football team at a small regional high school in Massachusetts in the 1970s were Tim Murphy, now the head football coach at Harvard, Buddy Teevens, now the head coach at Dartmouth, and Jeff Hawkins, the director of football operations at Oregon.
Perhaps the all-time champion center of serendipity was an old Battle Creek, Mich., sanitarium presided over by members of the Kellogg family before being converted during World War II into the Percy Jones Army Hospital. That’s when the hospital, which had once treated Mary Todd Lincoln and Sojourner Truth and went on to be ridiculed in a T. Coraghessan Boyle novel, became the home of three remarkable Army men who had suffered grievous war wounds.
On just one floor of a hospital so big it once had 800 employees were Robert Joseph Dole of Russell, Kan., who had been shattered on a hill in Italy in the last month of the war and reckoned by almost everyone who saw him as destined for an early, swift and merciful death; Philip Aloysius Hart of Bryn Mawr, Pa., his arm seeded with shrapnel from an artillery shell on Utah Beach during the D-Day invasion; and Daniel Ken Inouye of Honolulu, shot in the stomach and hit by an exploding grenade in Italy.
They had nothing in common except for their valor and suffering — and their injuries, especially to their arms. Inouye would lose his. Hart’s would always bother him. Dole’s would be withered and weak for all of his days. But it isn’t the injuries that tied them together — that is why this is a story worth telling now — but the way they recovered, each in his own way, each at his own speed (Hart would later fight in the Battle of the Bulge), each with an eye to be defined not by what he had lost but by what he could gain.