In 2001, Daniel Hodd was a 17-year-old promising concert pianist with a scholarship offer from Juilliard; he also wanted to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

At StoryCorps, he sat down with his mother, Evelyn, to talk about the choice he made, and the more difficult decision he made after breaking his fingers in an accident just before he was scheduled to deploy.

Staff Sergeant Daniel Hodd deployed to Iraq twice, first in 2003 and then again in 2008.

Originally aired April 13, 2013, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

The music at the end of his story is a 2001 recording of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” performed live by the Sound Symphony Orchestra with Daniel as solo pianist.