In 2001, Daniel Hodd was 17 and had a promising career as a concert pianist. But he also wanted to join the Marine Corps.
At StoryCorps, he sat down with his mother, Evelyn, to talk about that difficult choice.
Staff Sergeant Daniel Hodd deployed to Iraq twice, first in 2003 and then again in 2008.
The music at the end of his story is a 2001 recording of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, performed live by the Sound Symphony Orchestra with Daniel as solo pianist.
Click here for the transcript.
Daniel Hodd (DH): Yeah, we were doing our pre-deployment training. And I walked up to one of the vehicles and I went to open one of the doors and the door just kind of snapped three fingers. So they sent me to a specialist and they were like, "You know your finger's broken, right? You can't deploy with a broken bone in your body."
To hear that you can't deploy because of less that one inch piece of your body, just seemed absurd to me. And I had a couple dozen junior Marines who expected certain things of me. And I promised them I would get out there as soon as I could.
Ultimately, the specialist told me, "We got two options. You can either try some treatment plan, and you definitely won't deploy, or you just cut it off and you get on a plane."
And I was like, "Cut it off," because you know, I made a promise. I had to deploy.
In some ways that decision was difficult, in other ways it was one of the easiest decisions I've ever made. I would be a very different person today, I think, had I graduated from music school and not joined the Marine Corps. But that's not a decision that I regret. I know that that hurt you and I'm sorry.
EH: Well, I am so awfully proud of you, you have no idea.
The fact that you have given all to your country over what I wanted for you or even what you would've pursued, it says a lot for who you are.
DH: Well, I didn't give all. Many people gave a lot more but uh… thank you and I love you.
EH: Love you too.