With 28 years of Army reserve experience, Mann served in Afghanistan from January 2009 to January 2010. Before deployment, he and his wife started the paperwork to adopt two teenage boys from Namibia. One son arrived while Mann was in Afghanistan and the other shortly after his return.

What is daily life like for a colonel in Afghanistan?

It's long. It starts off at about 5 in the morning, and I was typically working until 10 o'clock at night. And that's seven days a week, except for some time off for church and laundry. ... Our job was to sustain all the soldiers in the country with logistical support.

You received the Bronze Star for your work in Afghanistan. What has that meant to you?

It told me that my unit really did a good job with a tough mission.

How has serving in Afghanistan changed you?

It was great experience and very rewarding, but if anything I have more of an appreciation for the freedom we enjoy here and the way of life. I see the way these Afghans try to succeed and have a bright future, and it's a struggle.

What was the experience like for your wife?

I think it was tough on her. ... Soon after I left we had one of our adopted boys arrive. And that was quite an experience for her, taking care of a child without me there.

How have you adjusted to moving back to the States and becoming a father?

It's quite a change. I had never raised children in the past, and I came home to a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old. But I think some of the skills I acquired as a leader in the military helped me as a father. I tried to set the example as a leader in the military and do the right thing, and I try and do the same thing as a father.

-- Liz Essley