Remembering the Diplomats on Memorial Day


mgedwards:

“Remembering the Diplomats on Memorial Day,” a piece I wrote last year. This is dedicated to the Foreign Service officers we lost in the past year – Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, and Anne Smedinghoff. This year, please remember the diplomats and all civilians who serve their country on the front lines of freedom.

Originally posted on World Adventurers:

Every year on Memorial Day, American flags are flown to honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces who died or were wounded in the line of duty. Their service is noble, and I appreciate that our country publicly acknowledges their sacrifices.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scant attention, however, is paid to the civilians who serve courageously in the line of fire. Diplomats and other civilians who work for the U.S. government are often placed in dangerous and unstable locales around the world. They have participated in every war and conflict since the Revolutionary War alongside their military colleagues. In some cases, the civilians stayed behind after the troops withdrew, as happened last year in Iraq. They were also stationed in places without the benefit of U.S. military support when unrest occurred, as happened in Libya, Syria, and in other countries that experienced upheaval during the Arab Spring.

Hundreds of American diplomats…

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Real Dreams Featured in the Foreign Service Journal


dreamscoverThe Foreign Service Journal has featured my book Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories in its annual “In Their Own Write” compilation of books published by Foreign Service-affiliated authors in 2012. The Foreign Service Journal writes of Real Dreams (p. 49):

Mike Edwards wrote these 15 short stories over a period of 30 years, beginning in his youth. He covers a wide variety of themes and topics inspired by dreams and experiences over those years.

These stories encompass a boy’s fantasies and an adult man’s maturation. A young boy finds himself the protector of genetically modified army ants that have escaped from the military. An old woman considered to be mentally ill may have reason for her outbursts, while a prisoner of war writes letters of hope from his Nazi concentration camp during World War II. And a gloomy maintenance man turns out to have a terrifying history.

 

Real Dreams is a collection of stories I wrote between 1981 and 2011. Each reflects changes in my writing style and interests over time. I wrote the earliest story, “How Little Big Chief Calmed the Mountain,” as a young student, and the latest, “Evil | Live,” three decades later. The book is a story sampler rather than a cohesive anthology. The stories are grouped by genre. You will find some common themes, including hope, dreams, light, darkness, perseverance, and spirituality, wrapped up in some novel ideas. In some stories, the reader is left to ponder their deeper meaning. I hope you enjoy these diverse and timeless works three decades in the making.

Thank you, Foreign Service Journal, for including Real Dreams on your 2012 list. I am grateful that my book joined other superb works written by Foreign Service colleagues and alumni. I encourage readers to browse the books featured in “In Their Own Write” and read the Journal to learn more about the Foreign Service.

Real Dreams is available to purchase as an e-book or in print from these booksellers:

U.S. Booksellers

dreamscover2Available to purchase as an e-book for US$2.99:

Amazon.com for Kindle

Apple iTunes for iPad/iPhone

Baker & Taylor for Blio e-reader

Barnes & Noble for Nook

Diesel Ebooks for iPad and other e-readers

Google Play for Android

Kobo Books for Kobo e-reader

Smashwords for iPad and other e-readers

Sony ReaderStore for Sony e-reader

Available in print for US$8.99:

Amazon.com

Createspace-

International Booksellers

Available as an e-book or in print (prices vary by format and local currency):

Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom)

Amazon.fr (France)

Amazon.de (Austria and Germany)

Amazon.it (Italy)

Amazon.co.jp (Japan)

Amazon.es for Kindle (Spain)

Available as an e-book:

Barnes & Noble for Nook (United Kingdom)

Visit my websitefor a complete list of booksellers.

 

About the Foreign Service Journal

The Foreign Service Journal covers foreign affairs from an insider’s perspective, providing thoughtful articles on international issues, the practice of diplomacy and the U.S. Foreign Service. The Journal is published monthly (July/August issues combined) by the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA). The November issue features its annual “In Their Own Write” compilation, the largest edition yet, with some 90 new books by Foreign Service-affiliated authors. The list spans almost every conceivable literary genre: from history and foreign policy to memoirs and biographies, and from novels and short stories to mysteries and how-to books.

About the American Foreign Service Association

Established in 1924, AFSA is the professional association of the United States Foreign Service. With close to 16,000 dues-paying members, AFSA represents over 28,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees of the Department of State, Agency for International Development (AID), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), Foreign Commercial Service (FCS), and International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).

Click here to read the original post on my blog, World Adventurers.

dreamscoverM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

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Kilimanjaro Featured in the Foreign Service Journal


mge-kili-cover-front-smallThe prestigious Foreign Service Journal featured my book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill in this year’s “In Their Own Write” compilation of books published by Foreign Service-affiliated authors.

The Foreign Service Journal wrote of Kilimanjaro (p. 36):

Approaching middle age, sick and overweight, Mike Edwards was hardly in shape to face the tallest mountain in Africa. But armed with stubborn perseverance and the desire to defy naysayers, he reaches for the top in his attempt to tackle Kilimanjaro.

The tale covers every aspect of the climb, from preparations that included being dragged through aisles of clothing by his avid shopper (and mountain climber) wife to eating a monotonous vegetarian diet for five days.

Once on the mountain, it doesn’t matter who you are. It’s just you and the mountain. Luckily, Edwards had a kindhearted guide and a well-planned expedition. But planning can only go so far when subjecting yourself and your team to the ruthless elements of Kilimanjaro’s highest altitudes.

This Global E-Book Award nominee is fuel for all aspiring mountain climbers as well as those heading “over the hill.” Climbing “Kili” changed the author’s life and gave him the motivation he needed to leave his diplomatic career and follow his dreams. And with this book he is living them.

Mike Edwards was a Foreign Service officer for 11 years. He left the Service in 2011 to focus on writing and now lives in Thailand with his wife, Jing, a Foreign Service specialist at Embassy Bangkok, and their son. This book is the first of his World Adventurer Series. He also writes mysteries, thrillers and science-fiction fantasies, and has published a volume of short stories, Real Dreams.

kilifull

Readers have called Kilimanjaro “life changing,” “inspirational,” “gripping,” “an epic journey of self-discovery,” and “a peek into someone’s personal travel journal.” It’s a book for anyone who feels over the hill and needs encouragement to make a life change in the face of difficult odds. It’s also for the casual climber, mountaineer, or hiker who is interested climbing one of the world’s tallest mountains. Filled with insights and advice for those who are contemplating their own Kilimanjaro climb, this book will put you on the mountain and inspire you to go over it.

Thank you, Foreign Service Journal, for including Kilimanjaro on your 2012 list. I am grateful that my book joined other superb works written by Foreign Service colleagues and alumni. I encourage readers to browse the books featured in “In Their Own Write” and to peruse the pages of the Journal to learn more about the Foreign Service.

Kilimanjaro is available to purchase as an e-book or in print from these booksellers:

U.S. Booksellers

Available to purchase as an e-book for US$3.99:

Amazon.com for Kindle

Apple iTunes for iPad/iPhone

Baker & Taylor for Blio e-reader

Barnes & Noble for Nook

Diesel Ebooks for iPad and other e-readers

Google Play for Android

Kobo Books for Kobo e-reader

Smashwords for iPad and other e-readers

Sony ReaderStore for Sony e-reader

Available in print for US$9.99:

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

Createspace

Diesel Book Store

IndieBound

International Booksellers

Available as an e-book or in print (prices vary by format and local currency):

Amazon.co.uk for Kindle (United Kingdom)

Amazon.fr for Kindle (France)

Amazon.de for Kindle (Germany)

Amazon.co.jp for Kindle (Japan)

Amazon.it for Kindle (Italy)

Amazon.es for Kindle (Spain)

Available as an e-book (prices vary):

Barnes & Noble for Nook (United Kingdom)

Available in print (prices vary):

Amazon.ca for Kindle (Canada)

Visit my website for a complete list of booksellers.

About the Foreign Service Journal

The Foreign Service Journal covers foreign affairs from an insider’s perspective, providing thoughtful articles on international issues, the practice of diplomacy and the U.S. Foreign Service. The Journal is published monthly (July/August issues combined) by the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA). The November issue features its annual “In Their Own Write” compilation, the largest edition yet, with some 90 new books by Foreign Service-affiliated authors. The list spans almost every conceivable literary genre: from history and foreign policy to memoirs and biographies, and from novels and short stories to mysteries and how-to books.

About the American Foreign Service Association

Established in 1924, AFSA is the professional association of the United States Foreign Service. With close to 16,000 dues-paying members, AFSA represents over 28,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees of the Department of State, Agency for International Development (AID), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), Foreign Commercial Service (FCS), and International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Remembering the Diplomats on Memorial Day


Every year on Memorial Day, American flags are flown to honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces who died or were wounded in the line of duty. Their service is noble, and I appreciate that our country publicly acknowledges their sacrifices.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scant attention, however, is paid to the civilians who serve courageously in the line of fire. Diplomats and other civilians who work for the U.S. government are often placed in dangerous and unstable locales around the world. They have participated in every war and conflict since the Revolutionary War alongside their military colleagues. In some cases, the civilians stayed behind after the troops withdrew, as happened last year in Iraq. They were also stationed in places without the benefit of U.S. military support when unrest occurred, as happened in Libya, Syria, and in other countries that experienced upheaval during the Arab Spring.

Hundreds of American diplomats have died in the line of duty. Their deaths were caused by natural disasters, diseases, killings, assassinations, and trying to save others’ lives. Two memorial plaques in the entrance hall of the State Department list the names of the 231 diplomats who have died in the line of duty since William Palfrey was lost at sea in 1780. More recently, Brian Adkins was killed in his home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2007, and David Foy was killed in 2006 by a car bomb in Karachi, Pakistan. This figure does not include the 52 Americans held hostage for 444 days during the 1979-80 Iran Hostage Crisis when students and militants overran the then-U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The International News offers a sobering analysis of the history of violence against American diplomats, reporting that 111 have been killed or assassinated since 1780. According to the State Department, more ambassadors than U.S. generals or admirals have been killed since World War II. The U.S. Diplomacy Project tells the tales of diplomats who were put in harm’s way while serving overseas.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA         While 231 may not sound like a large number, consider that at any given time there are only about 11,000 American diplomats versus the more than 2.5 million members of the U.S. Armed Forces. A rough comparison of casualties during the Iraq War in 2008 revealed that personnel working for the State Department in Iraq during 2003-08 had a casualty rate of about 50% that of their military counterparts. As the events of September 11, 2001, showed, you don’t have be involved in active combat to be a casualty of war and terrorism.

Civilians who serve our country overseas work for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other U.S. Government agencies or as contractors. Many support the U.S. military and diplomatic corps in hostile and dangerous conditions. They are unsung heroes who are rarely featured on the evening news or in movies. They labor in obscurity to protect the freedoms that Americans enjoy.

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act (Public Law 90-363) set aside Memorial Day as a federal holiday to be celebrated each year on the last day of May. The law, however, does not specify who or what it commemorates. That’s up to you to decide. In the minds of many Americans, Memorial Day is a day to honor the U.S. Armed Forces, but this was not always so. The holiday known in the late 1800’s as Decoration Day recognized the veterans of the Union Army who fought in the American Civil War. After World War I, the generally accepted meaning of the day was to honor all Americans, military or civilian, who died in any war. This changed following World War II. It’s time to return to the days when we acknowledged the efforts of all who serve their country bravely in and out of uniform.

This Memorial Day, amid the barbeques, car races, fireworks, and gatherings, remember the diplomats and other civilians who faithfully serve their country in harm’s way.

Happy Memorial Day. God bless America, and God bless those who serve our country.

NFATC

Click here to read my 2007 post on Memorial Day.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State. The photos belong to the author.

clip_image001M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

I Am No Longer A Foreign Service Officer


KilimanjaroA post I wrote in October 2006 called “What is a Foreign Service officer?” ranks among this blog’s most popular entries. I wrote it during the heady days when I was looking forward to a long career as a diplomat and retiring from the Foreign Service. Alas, it was not meant to be. I resigned from the U.S. Department of State last year to pursue other interests, a decision that I do not regret and am thankful I made.

I owe it to readers who read my earlier post a balanced view of the Foreign Service that cannot be found in the Foreign Service Journal, AFSA press releases, State Department literature, or blogs written by diplomats or their dependents. Most of what you read online about the Foreign Service is rosy and, in my opinion, defends it to a fault. Perpetual sunshine about the Foreign Service does not tell the full story and does a disservice to those who are interested in becoming Foreign Service officers and need a more realistic picture of what to expect.

If you are interested in a career as a Foreign Service officer, you should seriously consider these points before embarking on the lengthy and competitive application process. I do not want to dissuade you from pursuing your dream, but you should be aware of some realities of Foreign Service life that are not well publicized. These views are my own but have been reinforced by years of firsthand observations and conversations with peers. Many of my colleagues shared these sentiments.

1. Worldwide Availability. You are expected to be available for service worldwide, and your personal preferences may not be taken into account. You may be called to go somewhere you don’t want to go that could put your life at risk. The needs of the service supersede yours. Expect to serve in places you may not want to be.

2. Separation. Be prepared at some point in your career to be separated from your family and serve unaccompanied. If your spouse or partner also works for the Department, expect to do separate tours at least once in your career, possibly more. As of last year, over ten percent of all posts were unaccompanied. If keeping the family together is your raison d’être, you may be disappointed.

3. U.S. Interests. Expect to promote U.S. foreign policy. There is little room for altruism and idealism if it does not coincide with U.S. interests. These interests depend on the administration in office, and whatever you advocated may change at any time. You do not serve your country. You serve the Federal Government and hope that it is doing what’s best for your country.

4. Frequent Moves. Be prepared to move frequently. In some cases, this may mean a short tour of one year or less in a conflict zone, a short-term assignment, an evacuation, or a reassignment to another post. You will move from place to place every two-to-three years, or sooner, unless you can find a different assignment at the same post. While moving from country to country may seem exciting to some, relocation ranks as one of the biggest headaches for Foreign Service families.

5. Bureaucracy. Get used to working in a bureaucracy. You work for the Federal Government. It may be “cool” being a diplomat, but you are still a member of the bureaucracy. Expect decisions and paperwork to move slowly through the system, if at all. Often they will be “overcome by events,” a fancy term that means you did a lot of work for nothing. You will do an immense amount of paper pushing in the office until you’re senior enough to have support staff to do it for you.

6. Unfair Rules. “Fair” is a four-letter word. Do not expect justice or fairness. The rules are written to be equalizers and may make no sense. Expect “no” as an answer to even the most logical requests and massage the rules until you get to “yes.” You are subject to the Foreign Affairs Manual and federal regulations. In a rule-based organization, those who know the rules and how to work the system tend to do better. Those who expect fairness, justice, or hold firm in their resolve often go wanting. The Foreign Service has few options for those who want to pursue a complaint because the rules were written with the Department’s interests in mind.

7. Multiple Clearances. Do nothing until you have cleared with everyone who needs to approve whatever you’re doing or face potential consequences. Your superiors are ultimately responsible for your actions under mission authority and can take disciplinary action if you misstep. If you’re a free spirit or like to do things your own way, think twice. Measure as many times as it takes to get full clearance and then cut.

8. No Privacy. Do not expect to have any privacy. Your life is on public display, and you are expected to lead yourself in public responsibly. Do nothing privately you would not want to see end up in the pages of the Washington Post. Everyone wants to know what you’re doing. Everyone, inside and out.

9. Unhealthy Work Environment. Expect to work with a variety of personalities from many cultures. Given its high-pressure working environment, the Foreign Service has elevated levels of stress that can negatively influence behavior. While many employees are excellent colleagues, the Department has its fair share of bad bosses and nasty coworkers. The Department’s hierarchical clearance and promotion systems are designed to give leverage to those in positions of authority. They can make your life miserable if you’re not compliant or simply rub them the wrong way. Try to get along, even if it goes against every fiber in your being, because with perseverance you too will rise to a position of authority and eventually exert your own leverage.

Michael Gene (M. G.) Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. A former U.S. diplomat, he served in South Korea, Paraguay, and Zambia before resigning in 2011 to write full time. He is recipient of numerous State Department awards, the Joint Civilian Service Achievement Award from the U.S. Department of Defense, and a commendation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Paraguay. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex. For books and stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

The views in this blog entry are solely those of the writer and do not represent the views of the U.S. Department of State.

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