Chris Brown was a huge talent whose career in MLB was shortened by injury. An all-star in his third season, he never made it to free agent status where he could rake in the big bucks. He's now driving a truck for Halliburton in Iraq.
One day he was driving his 18-wheeler, hauling diesel fuel from a depot to a military base, when his long fuel convoy drove into a sandstorm. When the sand lifted, Brown was alone and spotted a man in a face mask off to the side of the road, pointing an AK-47 at him. He swerved, and a bullet pierced his windshield. In April he was about a mile behind a convoy that was ambushed; seven Halliburton drivers and security guards disappeared in the attack.
Brown's one-year contract is up in September, and although he is lonely and many of his co-workers have gone home early, he will not. He calls home to talk to his wife and children. He looks at digital pictures on e-mail messages, "so I can see the expression on my kids' faces, and how they're growing."
A few of his co-workers know he played pro baseball, that he hit a double in the 1986 All-Star Game, but he never talks about it unless asked. "I'm not ashamed of it," he said, "but if I were to raise it, I would look at it as bragging on myself."
I asked him if, based on his reputation in pro sports, going to Iraq was in any way an effort to prove something to others. Or to himself. "I know who I am," he said. "I would never do nothing to prove myself to anybody. I'm here providing for my family and for our future. Isn't that what a man's supposed to do?"
From a nice article by Michael Sokolove in the New York Times.