Col. Peter Mansoor (ret.) served two tours in Iraq. [National Veterans Memorial and Museum photo]

Col. Peter Mansoor: Distinguished career got start in the library

Col. Peter Mansoor remembers his mother turning him loose in the library as a child in Sacramento, California, while she prepared lesson plans for her third-grade class. Alone among the stacks, Mansoor always found his way to the military history section.

It was those hours of reading that sparked a passion that eventually led Mansoor, 58, to attend the U.S. Military Academy in 1978. A distinguished 1982 graduate of West Point, Mansoor served in a number of positions in the U.S. Army during his 26-year career, including two tours in Iraq.

Mansoor's military career culminated in Iraq as the executive officer to Gen. David Petraeus during the 2007 Iraq surge. As a reminder of the gamble the United States took with the surge, Mansoor carried a poker-chip necklace with him daily. That necklace is on display at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum.

After retiring from the Army in 2008, Mansoor joined Ohio State University to fill the Gen. Raymond E. Mason Jr. Chair of Military History. He is also an author and a military analyst for CNN. Sitting in the library all those years ago, Mansoor said he would have never imagined the career he's had.

"I was surprised, but it was a great transition," Mansoor said. "I never really thought the military would be a lifelong profession, and yet here I am."