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Peterson was a general years before his 3 stars


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POSTED: Sunday, May 03, 2009

Decades before Curt Schilling's bloody sock became the symbol of Red Sox Nation, a high school senior suffered a broken blister on his foot at the Saint Louis School football practice field.

At first, just another relatively minor injury being endured by a tough kid—similar scenes playing out across the country in the summer of 1967, as they did every August before and have every August since.

But the hole in Joe Peterson's foot kept getting bigger, the volume of blood he poured out of his shoe and wrung from his sock increasing each day.

“;He'd sit by that tree right there,”; Ron Marciel said the other day. “;He wouldn't say a word. But everybody saw.”;

The subjects were leadership, and Peterson's role as a member of one of the state's most successful collections of high school athletes, the Saint Louis Class of 1968. They accomplished the rare achievement of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu triple crown—football, basketball and baseball championships.

Now, it is quite possible the Crusaders would've won the ILH football title in 1967 without him. This team featured luminaries like Jim Nicholson, Larry Frank, Glenn Hookano and five or six others Peterson can name 41 years later, claiming all to be more valuable to the team than himself.

Maybe not, though. Peterson's bloody foot was a testament to his courage and an inspiration to his teammates. He was a leader on a team of them.

“;Not with talk,”; Marciel said. “;He demonstrated it. Every day.”;

Flash forward to last Friday. Now, the kid who was the 180-pound right tackle on offense and nose tackle on defense speaks to the assembled Saint Louis student body.

Today, Joey Peterson is Lt. Gen. Joseph Peterson, the first 3-star of Hawaiian ancestry in U.S. Army history.

“;The human form learns only two ways,”; he tells them. “;Through repetition and significant emotional events. It's always better to learn through repetition and good experiences and not through significant emotional events.”;

Especially in Peterson's line of work.

In his current assignment, he is responsible for 780,000 soldiers. He is charged with having them trained, ready to move quickly, ready to fight.

When Peterson joined the Army, people weren't thanking soldiers for their service and buying them drinks on airplanes. It was 1968, and anti-war usually meant anti-guy-in-uniform, too. He turned down a scholarship to play football at Stanford and joined the ROTC at Santa Clara, instead.

An advisor called him lolo.

“;I believed I would eventually serve, and I always thought about country and patriotism. I thought I might as well go in as an officer,”; he said. “;There were protests on campus, but we worked our way through it.”;

That's what soldiers spend most of their time doing—working through things ... repetitions, hard monotonous toil or dull routine. It's a lot like what makes for a successful football player—enduring, dealing with pain and moving on.

Peterson spoke of being talked out of quitting football his junior year by his JV coach, Andy Pavich. He spoke of “;aloha”; translating into the big picture of “;heart and empathy, caring for others”;—even as an Army general.

But the story from his coach of the broken blister is the most resonant.

“;He always led the charge,”; Marciel said.