Most of us think we know all about soldiers and spies because we follow the actors who play such roles on television and in the movies. Thus, we see actors engaging in a lot of “action,” and we—at least those of us who have not been soldiers or spies—learn to suspend all disbelief. We are used to seeing a month long battle or even an entire war begin and end within an hour or two, and we leave the theater knowing that, in the end, the “good guys and gals” always triumph.

This is crazy. Even though I myself am an avid fan of television’s NCIS, and most of the World War Two movies (Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, Saving Private Ryan, etc.), I am far more interested in the stories of real life soldiers and spies. I want to know what they think, what they do, how they learn their craft. Recently, an incredibly dignified hero came my way.

First, a letter arrived in the old-fashioned manner. The author cordially addressed me as a “colleague in the field of terrorism.” He asked whether I might like to read his unpublished manuscript about Islam and terrorism.

I was about to say no when, on a hunch, I agreed to look at his work.

A package soon arrived which weighed at least five pounds. I opened it and almost immediately began to read his book, which is tentatively titled: The DNA of Terrorism. The work, which focuses on Islamic fundamentalism, is very, very good. Now, I was curious about the author. I wanted to know how he came by this extraordinary knowledge.

Before I could even reach for the phone, he called and suggested we meet. He said:

I must tell you that both I and my wife still adhere to a 1930s dress code.

I plowed through my closet wondering what in God’s name to wear. Gloves? A hat? Nylon stockings? I ended up wearing what I usually do.

Next: “This example of double volunteerism constitutes the essence of patriotism.”