The idea for this story began the night of Jan. 23, 2007, when President Bush, in his State of the Union address, talked about the surge in Iraq. "To win the War on Terror, we must take the fight to the enemy." The war was a mess at that time but our president was doubling down on the U.S. mission there. After putting the paper to bed, a handful of visual newsroom leaders gathered in a bar. I asked a simple, straightforward question: "What kid would want to join the service now?" We decided to find out. The entire plan for the series was outlined on the back of a bar napkin. The plan worked.