Something is Amiss

05/25/2011 11:45 am ET

Generally speaking, one of the most private groups of people in public service are general officers in the US Army. This is not a preference that comes with the stars, rather it is developed over decades of service to America in the Army. As officers become more senior, their privacy becomes more treasured and more fragile. So with this in mind, I would guess that this must be a very painful time for General Kevin Byrnes.

I do not know anything about the circumstances of the recent announcement about his "personal conduct". A banner on one of the cable TV news stations is my only "source" that something is amiss. But I do know Kevin Byrnes as a fellow officer. We first crossed paths at the Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. In the fall of 1990, he had been chosen to remain at the War College for a second year in order to work in an exclusive think tank there. Kevin was smart, fun to have in a group, unassuming, courteous and had the distinction of being the best softball player in the entire student body. He was the most sought after player in that all-important softball competition that launches the sports season at the beginning of each academic year at Carlisle.

Over the following decade, I talked to Kevin at the conferences and meetings where Army generals gather to chart the future course of the Army. Kevin was always the same -- made contributions to the dicussion that reflected real thought and sensitivity to nuance. He was a leader among his peers.

In the early summer of 2000 when I experienced intense public reaction to an incident reflecting on another officer's inappropriate conduct toward me, it was then Lieutenant General Kevin Byrnes who spoke at an event honoring my career at the Women in Military Service to America Memorial. At that event, he was pitch perfect for the gathering of civilian and military women and men who represented a dozen advocacy groups as well as a cross-section of active duty officers. His leadership translated beyond the warrior culture to the complex world of Washington DC. Later, the lighter side of Kevin Byrnes showed itself at my home in Alexandria where twenty generals and their wives and civilians appointed to serve with the Army came to celebrate the 81st birthday of Walter Kaye, a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. Kevin knew all the words to the songs we sang as a pianist played the popular music of the 1960's, 70's and 80's.

The evening of laughter and singing stands in stark contrast to the mood of this season of General Brynes' life but what I remember beyond any banner on cable TV is Kevin's leadership, his kind heart and his decades of service to America.