Carl Addison Swanson is many things. He’s a Staples graduate. A lawyer who spent decades in Texas, before returning to Westport several years ago. A frequent contributor to the “06880” comments section.
He’s also an author. His Hush McCormick series has done enormously well, thanks to social media marketing.
But in his latest book, Carl steps away from the “boat bum adventure” genre.
Double Parked in the Twilight Zone: Summer of 1960 is set in Westport. The protagonist, Justin Carmichael — and yes, that’s the name of a 1988 Staples grad, though the similarity ends there — graduates from Bedford Elementary School during that 1960 year.
Suffice it to say, Justin has a very interesting summer.
Carl is a Bedford El grad. (It’s now Town Hall. Carl remembers it well — including the basement, where the Westport Community Theater has replaced civil defense drills of yore.)
“Reaching 65 years of age in February made me aware that I suddenly wanted to talk about my life some more,” Carl says. His return to Westport sparked many memories, some of which he mines in Twilight Zone. (Note the subtle homage to Rod Serling, who lived in Westport when Carl was at Bedford.)
So is this book autobiographical?
Carl Addison Swanson
“In a sense, all writing is about your life and experiences,” he says. “The summer of 1960 was particularly intereseting to me, because a lot happened.”
For instance, Carl started playing golf at Longshore. His Little League team went to the town championship. He went steady with a girl for the first time.
“A lot of fun stuff,” he says.
Though Carl has a satirical streak, this is hardly satire. It is, he says, “a critique on the town back then, through my eyes.”
Westport was a great place to grow up, Carl says — “especially back in the ‘Wonder Years’ of the 1950s and ’60s. There was plenty to do, and a lot more freedom to do so.”
But there were not, he says, “as many adult eyes around as there are today.”
So why the title?
“I was pretty much of a goofball back then,” Carl says. “I got into a lot of trouble.
“I was also scared to death to walk by the Famous Artists School for fear of Rod Serling coming out. It was a terrifying television show.”
A few weeks ago, “0688o” posted a request from Sam Goodgame. The 2007 Staples grad — and West Point appointee — is now a platoon leader in Afghanistan. He hoped a couple of Westporters could send a few things to his troops.
Boy, did they.
The response — from individuals and organizations throughout town — was overwhelming.
And Sam’s high school alma mater led the charge.
Staples English teacher Dan Geraghty — a former Army Ranger and National Guardsman — took a special interest in Sam’s mission. Dan enlisted his entire department to help. (Members of the math, world language, physical education, library and culinary departments pitched in too.)
1st Lieutenant Sam Goodgame (right), with one of his soldiers in Afghanistan.
Last week, Sam emailed Dan. Sam’s deep gratitude shines an important light on many things: the amazing work our military men and women do, day in and day out. The importance of a community coming together, to do a tiny bit to help them. The fact that those tiny things mean so much.
And the role that a school like Staples played, in developing a leader like Sam.
Sam talked about every teacher when he said:
Thank you for the profound displays of support that you’ve shown my platoon. They communicate quite effectively to my men that they are valued and remembered by their American community.
After conducting missions in snowy remote provinces, Sam added, the Staples notes meant as much as the packages. “A flourish of personality connects with a soldier better than platitudes. Your letters struck chords with our men.”
Two of Sam Goodgame’s men, reading letters from Staples students.
Sam attributed his “love of truthful, clear expression — in literature, writing, and in life generally” — to the Staples English department.
“Words are the only thing that last forever, and each of your lessons lives on in me daily.”
Next, Sam turned to the letters the English classes had written. They generated
a lasting sense of comfort (and laughter) with my guys. Perhaps they wouldn’t choose the same words that I do, but your notes do much to close the gap between the US civilian population and its military….The fact that none of you have met my soldiers, yet support them all the same, makes the message stronger.
Then he addressed certain students individually.
He told a girl in Staples Players, “put your whole heart into theater, if you’re passionate about it. It turned out so well for my friends who did the same.”
One boy wondered about weapons. Sam said, “I remember playing Counterstrike as a kid in middle school and thinking the same thing you do.” He described his M4 carbine with an ACOG 4x-power scope, infrared laser, magazine full of tracer rounds and bipod pistol grip.
But then, referring to night vision devices, Sam added, “the guys we fight can’t see anything in the infrared slice of the electromagnetic spectrum. In Afghanistan we actually use a lot of the concepts that you learn about in physics and chemistry to our advantage.”
Letters and packages from Westport have buoyed Sam Goodgame’s platoon, thousands of miles away in snowy Afghanistan.
Switching gears, Sam described the importance of writing in his life. “It’s how I persuade people when I want them to do certain things; how I communicate with people I care about, and how I reflect on what’s happening around me and come to understand my own opinions more clearly.”
Sam tried to reach every teenager. To a boy dreaming of the Olympics, he wrote:
If you don’t give up, you have control over what happens to you. I failed Army Ranger school twice before I finally graduated. If I hadn’t passed, I’d be sitting behind a desk right now planning meetings about meetings. I wasn’t going to fail.
And to a boy who had described his upbringing in Asia, Sam wrote, “if I ever visit, I’ll keep your advice about Singapore girlfriends in mind.”
Dan Geraghty ran a half-marathon to support the Wounded Warriors Project. He wore combat boots, and carried his rucksack along the way.
One is considering West Point. Sam offered help and advice:
Be a good dude. Help people with no expectation of reward. Work out every day, and run 5 miles frequently. Get good grades, but more importantly, pay attention to your best teachers and learn everything you can from them.
Sam’s experience at the Academy was powerful. It exposed him to gifted mentors and world travel, and allowed him to share “conversations, meals and drinks with foreign diplomats and generals, the most powerful CEOs and bankers, and academics whose names will live for centuries.”
More importantly, Sam said, his teachers at West Point helped him learn about academics, the military and life in general. Though “an extremely unpleasant place to live for 4 years,” he wrote, “I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything.”
Sam’s time at West Point was — like his time at Staples — extremely well spent.
And the time that Staples students spent corresponding with Sam Goodgame is time that he gave right back to them.
In ways that will resonate for years to come.
(Sam’s platoon can always use more cards, letters and care packages. Send to:
1LT Sam Goodgame
PSD PLT, HHC 1-187 IN, 3BCT, 101 ABN DIV (AASLT)
FOB Gardez, Afghanistan
APO AE 09339)
Earlier this month, “06880” reported on Dan Geraghty’s upcoming half-marathon. The Staples English instructor, US Army Ranger School graduate and former 10th Mountain Division platoon leader was preparing to run 13.2 miles to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project — wearing his combat boots and 40-pound rucksack.
With typical determination, he succeeded. In fact, he exceeded his goals — in many ways. Here’s his report.
The run was a massive success. The Westport community — centered at Staples — offered the core funds of the $8,000 we raised.
Dan Geraghty (center) and his buddies.
The day of the run, the cloud cover was excellent. The weather was cool, and the sun did not come out. That was truly a blessing.
Shaun Lowry — a former Marine, 6-3 and 230 pounds of pure muscle — called me out in the morning. He decided to run with a 60-pound ruck, so I had to meet the challenge. I “recovered” from that decision all week!
During the run, about 2 miles in, a runner with Down Syndrome began running with the crew. Ben — immediately nicknamed “Big Ben” by our group — was the highlight of the day for me.
Ben’s father, who was running with his son, told us that Ben was the 1st Special Olympian to complete a half-marathon. When we heard that, we decided to give Ben our only Wounded Warrior water bottle.
The response was overwhelming. Ben hugged and chest-bumped the 7 of us. He even walked for a while, holding hands with one of the guys.
The run seemed difficult, until that beautiful young man ran up with a wide smile. We cheered Ben on at the finish — he ran the last 300 meters at a full sprint.
They did it!
The rains hit us right before the last mile — perfect timing. It made the rucks a bit heavier, but it was more important to be cool for the final “gut check” hill. As we climbed it, the crowd came to the fence overlooking us. They screamed and wailed on cowbells — it sounded like a rock concert.
Three quarters of the way up the hill John P. Byrne, my wounded buddy, began to sprint. We all followed him. At the crest my father passed John an American flag. We ran together, both holding the flag across the finish line.
John turned to me in the pouring rain. He said, “I think we did a good thing.”
Sorry, Dan. John was wrong. You, he — and your entire team — did a great thing.
The news that Osama bin Laden had been killed brought closure for many Americans.
For Dan Geraghty, it released a flood of memories.
Dan — now a highly regarded English teacher at Staples — spent 11 years in the military.
On June 12 he will run the Lake Placid Half-Marathon. He’ll raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project — a non-profit organization that supports injured combat veterans.
Oh, yeah. He’ll run all 13.2 miles wearing combat boots, and carrying his infantry rucksack.
The boots weigh 5 pounds. The ruck — with gear and water — is another 40.
Just another walk run in the park for Dan.
Dan Geraghty, in his half-marathon gear.
Before his teaching career, Dan completed parachute training and air assault as a ROTC cadet at Hofstra.
The week he graduated he was commissioned “immediate active duty” as a second lieutenant in the Army infantry.
Dan graduated from US Army Ranger School in 1999. He calls it “the proudest moment of my life.”
He became a platoon leader with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum (and was deployed on a diplomatic exchange program to Chile).
He transitioned to the National Guard — when he was thinking about applying for Special Forces School, his platoon sergeant had said “Either you’re going to marry the Army or your fiancée.” He served until 2006, when he and his wife Kristen decided it was time to focus full-time on being a husband, father and teacher.
“I no longer wear the uniform physically,” Dan — who left the Army with the rank of captain — says. “But for as long as I live, I will wear it mentally.”
As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 nears, he wants to give back to the men and women who have sacrificed so much to secure our freedom.
The daring mission to kill bin Laden sparked an intense return to 9/11 for Dan. That day — working on a project for Verizon — he stood below Tower 2 as the 2nd plane hit. He was defeaned by the roar, stunned by the concussion, seared by the heat, and tasted the sour burning of jet fuel fumes in his mouth.
“I felt like the victim of a war crime,” Dan says. “We all truly were. Without the support of my family and friends, I think I would have struggled indefinitely.
“But I survived, and was given a second chance on life. For 10 years, that day has defined my life.”
Dan knows that some wounded veterans will struggle for the rest of their lives. “I believe we owe these men and women our most humble thanks,” he says.
When he discovered the Wounded Warrior Project, its mission to treat veterans’ scars — both visible and invisible — resonated deeply.
So — after running hard on the roads around here, and training at Crossfit Performance in Fairfield — next month Dan heads to Lake Placid. He has done that marathon before — but in shoes and shorts.
Wearing boots, and carrying a pack, is a definite game-changer.
“A run is one thing,” he says to explain his unique choice of racing attire.
“But just a bit of pain will be my reminder of the great pains they have gone through to support and defend the United States of America.
“I just want to give back,” Dan says. “9/11 has, in many ways, defined my life for 10 years. I think about it every single day.
“By telling my story, by supporting the Wounded Warrior Project, by teaching about the event, I give away — piece by piece. And I no longer have to carry it.”
(To donate to Dan Geraghty’s half-marathon on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project, click here. Click below for a video on the organization’s work.
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