In 1981, at the age of 17, my friend Liam Q. did what many adventurous Kansas farm boys do: he joined the U.S. Navy to see the world. His test scores marked him for further training in a technical specialty, but Liam wanted to steer an aircraft carrier, so the navy made him a helmsman. Even today he gets excited when describing the delicate maneuvers required for a ship-to-ship resupply in rough seas.
As every sailor knows, shore leave is the most dangerous part of any cruise. This turned out to be true for Liam. At the naval base in Norfolk, Virginia, he fell in love with an older woman and was convicted of shooting her husband. In 1983, at the age of 19, he embarked on a different kind of cruise: a life sentence â€śup the river.â€ť