Book launch: Two Wheels and Two Questions: A Journey through America in Search of Personal and National Identity, by PNSR Senior Associate Christopher Holshek
WASHINGTON, DC – The Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) today launched “Two Wheels and Two Questions: A Journey through America in Search of Personal and National Identity,” a personal memoir by PNSR Senior Associate Christopher Holshek (Colonel, US Army, retired) reflecting on America and its place in the world. First written as a PNSR blog and then summarized in a Huffington Post article, “America and the Long Goodbye,” the book chronicles Chris Holshek’s reflections and experiences during an extended motorcycle tour across America following his retirement from the military in early 2010.
In addition to his work as a PNSR Senior Associate, Chris Holshek is a civilian civil-military adviser with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s Defense Institution Reform Initiative. While in the Army he served in civil-military operations in numerous positions, including command of the first civil affairs battalion to deploy to Iraq in support of Army, Marine and British forces, and as a staff officer for United Nations multinational peacekeeping missions. He participated in the development of Army, Joint, NATO, and UN policies and doctrine for civil-military, stability, and interagency operations, as well as contributed to the State Department’s recent Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review.
“Chris Holshek’s personal reflections on his 30-year service in the U.S. Army and his journey across America are personal testaments to why national security transformation is the critical question of our time” said PNSR President and CEO James R. Locher III. “They ground us in the reality of how our defective system affects the lives of real Americans and provides new thinking on how the national security system of the twenty-first century should function. I commend Chris for his selfless national service and his poignant insights that could help us transcend our current national security paradigm.”
In May 2010, newly retired Colonel Holshek set out from Washington D.C. on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle in search of the answer to two fundamental questions: “What does it mean to be an American?” “And what does that mean for America and the rest of the world?” Chris rumbled through the American South and Southwest to the Pacific Coast and returned through the Great Plains and the American Heartland. His trip also had a detour, escorting some students from the George Mason University to the African nation of Liberia. In the book, Chris chronicles his many encounters, including meeting his uncle, a Vietnam War veteran, and bantering with a shrimp boat captain while oil from the BP well polluted the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Pondering his travels, Chris saw the value of seeing America from both the “outside-in” and the “inside-out.” He discovered insights into the American character in its national parks and presidential homes and gained an appreciation of the enduring flow of American history as he traversed the routes of the Transcontinental Railroad and Lewis and Clark expedition. The conclusions he draws are both thought-provoking and timely as the United States looks for national renewal, to reinvent its government through a national security transformation and to use its leadership to secure a safe and prosperous world for generations to come.
“I realized that, like America, I found myself in mid-life transition, as I wandered between the military and civilian worlds at home as well as abroad,” Chris noted. “As I meandered through America on my Harley, reflecting both backwards and ahead in my life, it became clear I could never return to the structured and more predictable world of the military. That’s gone now, so I have to move on.”