I have a limited Glimpse of One Life through my early childhood. I was born in America in the state of Illinois. I was the youngest of six brothers and my three sisters were younger than me. My mother died when I was five years old with her tenth child. One ingrained memory of that time was being on the second floor of our home looking down through a heat vent into the hallway beneath and seeing my mother taken out on a stretcher.
I do recall another instance, at the home of my birth, in which I sought to obtain a pie that was cooling off in the kitchen window. I attempted to climb up a ladder to get to this treasure when I fell. I still have a scar on my head to prove that misadventure! After my mother died we were sort of scattered to the wind with only my oldest brother remaining with our father. I was reunited with one sister 52 years after that separation plus all my brothers from time to time. One sister and I stayed together through several foster home settings; with one sister never located.
One of my sisters (shown above in an early childhood picture), and I, had stayed together through different foster home settings. We lived in one foster home for two years. For me it was a happy time and though we did not have much in the way of material things it was made up for in other ways. At one time we lived in an old abandoned schoolhouse. I can still visualize, though I was young at the time, a clothesline stretched across the inside of the schoolhouse to accommodate the day's washing.
I remember an elderly lady who took us to church on Sunday. I remember the fragrance of the flowers she carried to church in her car. It was truly a happy carefree life in this foster home setting that I still treasure. While there I played some mischievous tricks on my sister who still remembers them, even to this day with a frown and unfortunately the scars to prove it!
One day we were uprooted from this happy setting and placed in another foster home where we remained until adulthood. The former foster parents had a child of their own; moved to another state to accept a job, which prompted our being sent to a new foster home. I never fully recovered from their decision. They sought my forgiveness when I was home on leave from the Navy.
I was so hurt that I rejected their plea. If I could see them today I would readily extend my forgiveness but that chance has since come and gone as I do not know where they are. A lesson to be learned in the area of forgiveness; the opportunity may come along only once; and one needs to carefully weigh their decision!
Photo of our Foster Parents, my Sister and I in the center, our Foster Cousins in front.
In our new foster home setting our needs were more than adequately provided for; as our new foster parents could have no children of their own, and we filled the void. It was a happy setting but the thoughts of what I left behind still lingered in my memory. Later as an adult I went back to where I had been uprooted. Where the old farm house had been there was only a field. The old store of the lady who took us to church was gone. I had sought to get a glimpse of that period in my life, through that visit, but it now eluded me. All that was left of those treasured moments are held in my memory; rather than being able to physically see them again.
I remember another such instance in that we (my final foster home setting) as a family went to a lake about 30 miles from our home to water-ski. I learned to ski on one ski, ski with by sister and cross other to the other side by going under her ski rope. I skied on that lake quite often, later a river, even in the ocean.
One humorous incident was when I attempted, for the first time, to ski into the beach area, then simply step out of my skis just before coming ashore. There were three young ladies sunbathing where I chose to come in. It did not turn out as I thought. In trying to impress them, I came in too fast, and done a flip flop very close to where they were! One of them looked over to me and said: "Who invited you?" So much for trying to impress the young ladies!
Later, as an adult, I returned to get another glimpse of those cherished moments only to find that they eluded me. The lake was still there but its landscape had been so drastically changed that it could no longer reinforce the old memories.
My Sister and I
God's Word reveals that one is to train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it. That certainly bears out to be the truth whether it adheres to religious principles or life in general. My foster father trained me as his helper in electrical, plumbing, and other working skills, that I would use later in life. My foster mother instilled in me the need to be in attendance in God's house.
When it came to Sunday there was no question as to where we would be. I had perfect attendance pins and at one point in my life even went forward to commit my life to the Lord. It was not the same commitment that I would make at the age of 35 but it was a commitment. Had it not been for the upbringing in my life things might have been much different for me. We were taught the concept of right and wrong; and I certainly had my share of punishment when I made a wrong decision.
My foster mother spent 40 years as a Sunday School Secretary. Later she had to allow someone else to fill that role because of her age. I know now that just attending church is not enough. It takes a deep-rooted commitment to the Lord. One can have all the perfect attendance pins they can earn but unless there is a change, with a love for the Lord, that excels all else, being devoted to the church is fruitless.
Later in life, when I was married, my wife never thought that I would fall head over heels in love with the Lord! In so doing she felt as if she had lost a part of me. In the movie "Ten Commandments" Moses wife spoke to an Egyptian woman; who previously had Moses' affection, saying: "You lost him when he began to seek after God, I lose him when he found Him." One is not to forsake their family commitment but the Lord has to be our first love.
I told the wife of a missionary, who was unable to accompany her husband on the mission field, that the sacrifices she made to free him for his mission trips would pay dividends when she was to claim her eternal reward. She is now with the Lord and I feel that which was said has now become a reality! They had been married over 50 years when she passed away.
My sister and I found a lady's purse, in a parking lot, and we gave it to our foster father. He found some identification and gave the lady a call and we waited 15-20 minutes for her to come from another town to claim the purse. She said her husband owned a gas station and that all the day's receipts were in her purse to be taken to the bank.
She patted my sister and I on the head and rewarded us with fifty cents each. We certainly did not feel "very rewarded" but we were taught that it is right to be honest and return what does not belong to you. Later in life, when I was on Rest and Recuperation (R & R) from Vietnam (in Hong Kong), I found a serviceman's billfold, with a large amount of money, and took it to the R & R Center information desk to be returned to its owner. Lessons learned in childhood can play a key role later in life!
Alcohol consumption was not even a consideration in the home we grew up in. Foul language was taboo. However, TV was not a factor at the time we were growing up, because at that time it was good wholesome family entertainment. We went to drive-in movies but the contents of the movies did not have to be a concern. It would be good to revive those days, if one could, but the morals of our land have exploded in the opposite direction!
This is a fitting title to those who pick on others for they seem BIG - BAD - and certainly UGLY in their deposition. Why I suffered as a target I do not know but it became embedded in my mind as to the cruelty of it. It was during my high school days; it was not from everyone but just one peculiar bully. He seemed to target me and another friend and tried to make our lives miserable.
I could offer little resistance towards him other than have a dislike cultivate deep within me. Maybe you can relate to such a happening with a glimpse into your own life! I heard of a Christian lady who had hatred towards the one who betrayed her family, during World War II, causing some of them to be but to death during the holocaust. Later that person came to her seeking forgiveness. It took the power of God to do a surgical removal of that hatred before she could forgive that individual. He will do the same for each of us if we allow Him.
Early one Sunday morning I was watching TV in the kitchen. A well-known TV evangelist, who had allowed sin to come into his life, suddenly came on. I had seen him, via television, ask for God's forgiveness, his family, and his listening audience. But despite this fact I headed towards the TV to change channels. I heard what seemed like an audible voice speak to me: "If you will not forgive man his trespasses neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:15). This placed an altogether different perspective on the matter; along with an attitude adjustment.
I have read accounts of many who suffered horribly at the hands of their captors; some even being put to death simply for their belief in Christ. Many, who survived, forgave those who done them bodily harm; yet we are unable to forgive those who do us wrong, in simpler ways.
John, a disciple of Christ, said: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day." I had a similar experience but in a different way. One Sunday morning we were having an exceptional "spiritual service" and it was as if I was placed on the cross in the place of my precious Lord. I felt an overwhelming love flow through me as I looked out over the world from generation to generation. We have to be willing to forgive the BIG - the BAD - and the UGLY in our own life, even as Christ forgave us and was willing to die for our sins, reflecting not only His forgiveness but His great love towards all.
While growing up, in our new foster home setting, I was somewhat of a disappointment. My foster dad, for example, wanted me to play football. I stuck it out "to put it lightly" for a year but never did see any humor in having a 240 pound senior using me (a freshman) for tackling practice. My first, and only game, saw my nose firmly implanted into the ground as I was literally ran over by an opposing team member!
My foster mother, on the other hand, wanted me to sing in the choir. I certainly was no canary but I gave it a try in an attempt to please her. Then I was directed to the school band in hopes of finding a talent there; wrong again! I did however excel in typing and bookkeeping mainly because I fell madly in love with my redheaded teacher (I had a thing about redheads at that time). Maybe you have not experienced disappointment from the expectations of others but I certainly have.
One time, later in life, I was asked to take the place of the Sunday School Superintendent. He had been at the church for a great number of years, a pillar of the church, but had to relocate to another town. I attempted to do as he did and failed miserably. I learned a valuable lesson though to simply be myself and place the rest in the Lord's hands! One cannot be what others desire for them to be. God choose David as King of Israel for what he already was, not because of his stature, but as a simple shepherd boy who had captured God's heart.
I graduated from high school and my foster parents decided my next step would be Business College. It did have it merits for I was later to use the expertise gained there, academically speaking; not some of the other vices.
I learned the art of gambling but did not fair well. The roll of the dice eventually was what caused my removal from Business College after only eight months of a fifteen month course. The dice game depleted my checking account which had been set up for me while attending Business College.
When I complained to my gambling buddies; one of them promptly gave me an "attitude adjustment," which still smarts today when I think about it. Unfortunately, I felt the sting of alcohol as well. The desire to gamble soon left me but drinking alcohol remained with me for years to come.
One night after alcohol indulgence, while attending Business College, I could have lost one of my hands that I am using in typing this autobiography. I apparently did not care for the reflection of myself in a storefront window and hit it with my fist.
I found out later that the upper part of the huge window had fallen downward, which could have easily sliced my hand off, had providence not intervened. As one reflects on the past one has to be thankful there is someone mightier, than ourselves, who is watching out for us whether we appreciate it or not.
After removal from the Business College setting I was given some choices. One choice was to enter into another Business College and work my way through. I opted that choice out because I never really had not wanted to attend in the first place. Another was to settle down in the local area and find a job. With one is subject to the draft it was difficult to find a job. The last choice was to go into the military, which I choose, possibly with the help of my foster father who was an eight-year veteran of the U. S. Navy.
Just prior to joining the military I had a falling out with my foster father. I departed from home by the way of thumbing a ride to a distant town (about 30 miles away). I learned to fend for myself by staying at the local YMCA and laboring in a field. It was a five mile walk to work and back again. It was hard work, out in the Illinois hot summer sun, but I was determined not to return home again.
I remember an instance when I had only 25 cents in my pocket and had the choice of eating a piece of pie or a more nourishing bowl of soup. I wanted that pie so bad I could taste it. I knew the soup would be more beneficial so it won out. Now that I can afford all the pies I desire; they do not have as much meaning, as that one piece of pie I could not afford so very long ago.
Later I was able to travel about the same distance, in a different direction, to pick strawberries for a half day, and earn as much as a whole day in the field. One day I returned to the YMCA; found my foster father waiting for me. I do not know how he located me for I certainty had not left any calling card. He said that if I would not return home for him; then for my foster mother's sake. He won out and I returned home and soon after entered into the military.
That's me in the Upper Left Hand Corner
Going from a hometown boy, to a life in the military, via booth camp, needless to say was quite an experience. I was going to join the Air Force but the Air Force recruiter was out to lunch and my foster father suggested we go to see the Navy recruiter next door. I took the entrance exam; and would you believe that being a high school graduate, and having some Business College under my belt, I failed the entrance exam? I did! My foster father picked up a book for me to help prepare for the military exam. A month later I retook the exam and did so well that I was guaranteed a military school.
Because I had typing ability I was selected as the Company Clerk. It had its benefits and I found out that I enjoyed administrative work. I finally was able to do something I enjoyed. But boot camp (basic training) was another matter. One particular upsetting day was when the Company Commander, a Chief Petty Officer, came back from lunch hour intoxicated; along with a fellow Chief Petty Officer.
They certainly knew how to make one's day hectic. They held locker inspection and threw personal items out of the third story window. One person had his nose, ears, and mouth stuffed with cigarettes. Another was commanded to do push ups as one of the Chief Petty Officers hindered him from doing so! Then another grabbed a person's rifle, while he was on guard duty, yelled at him for allowing it to be done. No one reported the incident for all were too scared to do so!
I survived booth camp, though there were some who did not, and they were discharged from the Navy. I was sent to Corpsman school (my promised school) to be a Hospital Corpsman. I found out that this was certainly not my cup of tea. The only reason I was chosen was the Navy's need for that particular rating and because of my administrative abilities. When they started teaching us to give bed baths, shots, and enemas I knew my departure was at hand (no reflection on any Hospital Corpsman who remain in that profession).
I was told by the Commanding Officer, of Hospital Corpsman school, that I would more than likely end up on a destroyer in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. I told him I did not care just get me out of Corpsman school. I received orders to San Juan and walked up to a sailor with a lot of years in the Navy (one could tell by the amount of harsh marks on one's uniform) and asked him what ship the San Juan was.
He looked at my orders and said, "It is shore duty in San Juan, Puerto Rico you dummy! I was no dummy but simply had believed what the Commanding Officer, of the Hospital Corpsman school, had told me. However, San Juan was almost my downfall, and a miracle that I survived my time there and remained in the Navy.
A Medical Officer, in the San Juan Naval Station, described my alcohol consumption behavior in the following manner: "This man when highly intoxicated resembles a caged animal." What a smear towards my upbringing in a Christian environment. A slap in the face but nevertheless the truth in his eyes. San Juan was where I lost what remaining virtues I may have had.
Have you ever been so intoxicated that you have tried to swim out of a mud puddle? Have you ever tried to direct traffic in a drunken condition? Have you ever woke up from a night of drinking with your hand hanging over the ledge of a three story building roof? Have you ever woke up in the morning after a drinking bout; on a sidewalk out in the middle of nowhere, minus some of your clothing you had started out with, with the sun coming up in the morning, to arouse your senses?
Have you ever been swung at by a pimp, and then been backed out of a bar by a policeman using your chest as a tattoo spot for his nightstick? Have you ever swung a person through a swinging bar door, who hit a parked car and crumbled like a rag doll? Have you ever been chased, by the shore patrol (the military police), through an outdoor theater with the Commanding Officer of the Naval Station in attendance? Then within seconds afterward come within a fraction of a second from being fired upon by a Marine Security Guard?
Have you ever faced three military judges at a Special Court Martial for Disrespect to a Superior Officer, Assault, Breaking Apprehension, Drunk and Disorderly? Then have to spend 50 days in a Marine Corps Brig? Welcome to my life in San Juan, Puerto Rico with a two-year period of hair-raising activities!
No wonder the 40th Psalm means so much to me: He brought me up out of an horrible pit, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he has put a new song in my mouth, even praise to my God. One Shore Patrolman, who had used his nightstick on me, saw me after my transfer from Puerto Rico. He could not believe that I was still in the Navy! We serve a wonderful Savior who is able to clean our act up; through that was to come much later in my life.
Life was a disappointment to me and during my time in San Juan I attempted to drown out past memories through alcohol. However, when one wakes up the next day the memories are still there! Many times I could have slipped out of this life to face the terrible consequences of Hell. I am thankful for the saving grace of God, through His Son; who later in my life, would bring me the joy I was searching for.
The Bible speaks of the effects of alcohol in the 23rd chapter of the Book of Proverbs: Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has babbling? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. At the last it bitten like a serpent. Your eyes shall behold strange women, and your heart shall utter perverse things. They have stricken me, you shall say; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.
Many cancer patients can say: "I am a survivor." Of my tour of duty in San Juan I can say that I was a survivor because of who was watching over me; even though I did not acknowledge Him as my Lord and Savior. A book could have been written concerning my activities in San Juan alone; I have much to be grateful for as a survivor of my own doing!
I reported about the USS Boxer (LPH-4) for staff duty with COMPHIBRON TEN. I received a Top Secret clearance in order to perform the task I had been assigned. The USS Boxer was a flagship for Commander, Amphibious Squadron TEN. One day I thought I would use my own ingenuity when given the task of making coffee. It was a good ways to where the water was so I decided to utilize the Commodore's cabin that was next to flag plot where I worked. Unfortunately, the Commodore decided to come into his cabin at that moment and things did not go well. I never utilized that resource again!
During my short stay on staff I did experience some moments of reality of military duty. The USS Boxer, and other ships deployed with COMPHIBRON TEN, helped evacuate some 3000 U. S. and foreign nationals from the Dominican Republic during an uprising in that country. I saw, through intelligence reports, what remained of many who had been thrown over a cliff into the sea; after the sharks had finished what the rebels had started. It was an eye opener towards the reality of warfare and its nasty business.
I saw U. S. Marines depart the ship in good spirits but return with solemn looks on their faces. Some came back wounded and a call for volunteers to give blood was given. I went to donate my blood and while there I witnessed one Marine, who could not have been more than 18 or 19 years old, lying in front of me with his shirt off revealing a tiny hole in his chest about the size of a pencil in diameter. A Navy Chief Petty Officer (Navy Corpsman) said: "He's meat throw him in the freezer." I thought that comment to be cold and insensitive but did not realize that the rigors of warfare might prompt such a response. This was my first encounter with a casualty of war.
My duty on the staff of COMPHIBRON TEN was short lived due to continued liberty violations, while at port visits, and excessive use of alcohol. I became termed a "security risk" and lost my Top Secret clearance. I then became of no use to the position I held on staff. I was transferred to the USS Telfair (APA-210), an amphibious ship that was assigned to the same amphibious squadron.
I reported to the USS Telfair (APA-210) which was going on a Mediterranean Cruise from October 1965 to March 1966. During this cruise we went to Marseilles, France - Genoa, Italy - La Spezia - Palma - Malta - Naples, Italy - and Barcelona, Spain. I have many memories of the Telfair, some are vague, but others quite clear. I fell head over heals for one girl in Marseilles, France and when we went to Barcelona, Spain I took a train back to Marseilles to see her again. At the border crossing, going from one country to the other, I could not cross over the border in a military uniform. I took off my hat, rolled up my pant legs, put on my rain coat, and crossed in that manner. When I returned to the ship I reported this incident. After that military personnel were authorized to wear civilian clothes traveling in like manner.
I had a Chief Petty Officer, and a First Class Petty Officer, on Telfair who attempted to straighten me out from my wild liberties but with little success. Alcohol had a terrible grip on me and I was unable to turn loose of its controlling influence in my life. However, again due to my work record, I was able to reenlist for an additional four years while about the Telfair. My Top Secret clearance was reinstated and I was transferred to COMSTSFE Staff in Yokohama, Japan in August 1966.
While attached to the COMSTSFE Staff in Yokohama, Japan I would do really well for a period of time then go out on liberty and tie one on. It usually brought me to the attention of my superiors through a Shore Patrol report. The Shore Patrol and I became very familiar with each other; also the red light district and I was kin to each other, and I certainly do not say that with pride.
As I pen these words I do not encourage anyone to attempt to imitate my actions. Scripture encourages one to shun that which is evil and cleave to that which is good. May this writing help someone avoid the pitfalls I experienced in my own life; and be introduced to a better way in Christ!
One night I indulged in an extremely excessive amount of alcohol that nearly cost my life. Looking back now, I believe that numerous times in my life I have escaped loss of life through the amazing grace that I now sing of. That night I was so far gone in an alcohol stupor that I could not even recall all that happened until it was told to me later. It is as if my memory blacked out until I sobered up through sheer pain.
I was told that a Japanese; who was angry with me for flirting with his niece; thought I was too big to fight, so he evened the odds with a butcher knife. I had on a suede jacket and was told that when he drove the knife through it into my side, withdrew it, and then launched in again, the knife entered close to the same place twice. This may have helped save my life.
I took a cab to my friend's house in Navy housing. When my friend heard me cry out his name, late at night, he thought he was dreaming. When he awoke the next morning and seen a bloody hand print on his screen door he knew it was no dream. I left his house on foot. In the meanwhile the taxi driver who had taken me to base housing noticed I had left a large amount of blood on the backseat of his cab and notified the police.
The Shore Patrol (military police) found me a short distance from my friend's house. The pain in my side, and their appearance, is the first thing I remember of the whole incident, other than a vague memory of being in the bar that night. The Shore Patrol looked like giants to me due to my condition. I was taken by an ambulance from Yokohama to Yokosuka with its siren going and red lights flashing. I suffered lost of a large amount of blood. When they returned my clothing my trousers were soaked down to the knees with blood.
I now have a scar, on my left side, where the knife had made its double entry. I carry this reminder of what God brought me out of. I also have a scar across my belly, still visible today, where they performed exploratory surgery to see what damage had been done. I can tell you that it was a lonely time in my life, lying on the operating table, not knowing what would happen. I turned to the God of my youth and made three promises; if He would spare me: I would quite drinking, quit using foul language, and become more religious. Four months later, to my shame, I was drinking again.
I was told that I was fortunate to be alive. God did His part but I reneged on mine. I do not encourage anyone to take such a chance for no one knows the hour in which they will leave this world. I thank God for His mercy; but I most assuredly had pushed it to the hilt!
I was in the hospital for 18 days. I felt ashamed that I was in a ward filled with Vietnam vets who had been wounded in action versus the reason I was there. Three of us; a member of the Navy Seal team, a Marine, and myself were in a room reserved for chest patients. One day Bob Hope came into the room, unannounced, and asked if we had seen the girls yet?
We said no and he sent three of them in to speak with us. The one who stood by my bed was Penelope Plummer, a blond from Australia, who was Miss Universe of 1968! Bob Hope noticed that I had a patch over one eye, and a tube exiting my chest, and asked if that is where I got hit. I was too ashamed to admit what really happened to me and simple nodded my head yes. What amazed me is that Bob Hope looked as if he had just stepped out of one of his films; He did not look any different in appearance!
One Sunday morning Billy Graham, unannounced, came into our room. This was the second time I had seen him in person. The other time was in Booth Camp but I could not see him well because I had left my glasses in the barracks and I was a good distance away at the time he addressed those in attendance. Those visits made such an impression on me that they are just as clear today as if they only recently happened.
I was sent from Japan to Korea as a temporary replacement for a Chief Petty Officer in the capacity of a Naval Boarding Officer. I was to meet incoming MSTS ships and provide any assistance needed. It was a plush job except for the eight-hour train ride from Soul to Pusan.
I remember one rather humorous incident while there. I was sent to meet a MSTS Naval ship carrying Korean soldiers coming back from Vietnam. I went to the assigned berth where the ship was to be tied up but it was nowhere in sight. A Korean soldier, in broken English, asked what I was doing there. I tried to explain the best I could that I was waiting for a ship to come in. He said "no ship coming, no ship coming." He had a rifle, and was getting really insistent; needlessly to say, I was relieved when just at that moment the ship came into sight!
While stationed in Pusan I was introduced to a woman who I took special interest in. I began to buy her things and we had an ongoing relationship that was to come to fruition towards marriage. She had a ten-year old daughter that looked just as Caucasian as I did. She was a pretty girl and so was her mother; though much older than I.
One of the sailors who was fond of her as a friend, and had introduced her to me, told me that if I did not do right by her God would know. What I am about to reveal I am not proud of but rather ashamed that I allowed it to go so far. I do not know if I was simply a ticket to America for her and her daughter or not; only God knows. But she went through a great deal of trouble to have the paperwork approved for our marriage.
I called home and expressed my plans to my foster mother and to say the idea was received with a cold reception would put it mildly. I was transferred back to Japan and the interest begin to wear off when I renewed my relationship with my old Japanese girlfriend. I know the Korean woman was crushed when I broke the news to her that I was not going to pursue the marriage.
I sought God's forgiveness for possibly messing this woman's life up. But sometimes I wonder what would have been in store for me had I gone through with the marriage? Only God knows! May God forgive us; if we have committed any injustices, towards anyone.
After returning to Japan I had a real sobering experience with my former girlfriend. She slit her wrist right in front of me due to an argument. Prior to that she hit me over the head with her spiked heel. We both shed some blood that night but obviously her situation required more immediate attention than my own. We both ended up in a local hospital. I had grown quite fond of her and when I returned to the States I sent her a quilt my mother had made along with other gifts. Time and distance brought an end to that romance.
Japan had a charm about it that was unique. Its people were polite and courteous but it did have some practices that seemed a little unorthodox to me at the time. I tried out one of its community bath houses. The men were on one side and women on the other. On the men's side one went into an area where there were individual faucets coming out of the wall. That was where one cleaned themselves prior to going into the pool with everyone else. I prefer the American tradition of bath or shower!
When one assumed the role of driving in Japan they automatically become a "Professional Driver" and was to act accordingly. My professionalism did not fair so well. On one occasion, when I found myself, along with my Japanese girlfriend, driving in a one-way tunnel; you guessed it, I entered in the wrong way! She became very excited in trying to communicate this to me. Thank the Lord we made it safely through! Then an equally disturbing incident happened on a narrow Japanese countryside road. My large American car decided to quite running and blocked the road. A number of Japanese, in other vehicles behind me, begin to blow their horns wanting through.
I had witnessed what some Japanese had done in response to someone holding them up in traffic. In that incident a cab driver was having it out with the driver of a truck behind him. Suddenly from the back of the covered truck came four men who grabbed the cab driver and pulled him into the back of the truck with them. It now seemed that this was going to be replayed for my benefit! Several Japanese got out of their vehicles and headed my way. But they were as polite as they could be and helped push my car aside so they, as well as others, could get by as they were unable to render assistance.
While in Japan I was invited to a worship service in a Buddhist temple. In the temple I witnessed many kneeling on the temple floor. Their worship increased in intensity to the beat of a drum. I still recall the chant spoken at the time.
A friend of mine, another sailor, who spoke Japanese, attended the worship of a fertility god. He gave me a replica of the symbol of such worship enclosed in a small wooden carved case. If a Japanese couple could not have a child this was the god they turned too. I thank God for my Christian upbringing that would keep me from being influenced by such. Parents your bringing up a child in the way they should go is not in vain. Somewhere down the road of life it will bear fruit according to God's Word.
While in Japan I received orders to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion TEN (NMCB TEN) out of Port Hueneme, California. When I looked up its itinerary I found out they were headed for Vietnam. This brought to my mind a reoccurring dream in which I came face to face with an enemy soldier who was ready to lunge at me with his bayonet. I would always awake prior to any further action being initiated. Upon receiving orders to NMCB TEN; and knowing its destination, I felt that maybe this dream would become a reality. After Vietnam that dream never did materialize again.
As I distanced myself from the promises I had made to God my old ways begin to flourish; though the memory of those promises never departed from me. Vietnam would become another eye opener towards dealing with my heart towards a life in Christ.
The Seabees; the Naval construction outfit I was attached to, wrote a new chapter in my life. It was like being in a unit completely separate from the Navy. I truly enjoyed my tour of duty with them. It was through my time with them that I was to meet my wife.
I received training, prior to going to Vietnam, through a Marine training facility in California. I earned a Sharpshooter designation; while in training, with the use of the M16 rifle. The realities of Vietnam truly came into focus as we learned how to throw hand grenades, locate landmines, walked along bobby trap trails, mock Vietnamese huts, etc..
I remember the day when we first practiced with dummy hand grenades (a low explosive charge), and then went to the live range to put into use that which we had learned. The instructor informed us that just a month earlier another instructor had lost both arms, and a trainee his life, when the trainee pulled the pin on a hand grenade; then froze. With this fresh in my mind I went to throw my grenade.
After throwing the grenade, I hit the dirt behind a low cement wall. It was then I heard a man, in the cubicle next to me, yell "I can't do it!" Despite the fact that there was a cement wall separating us, and that I was laying on hard ground, I would have enlarged my safety factor by digging a little deeper had such been possible! Of course that was impossible and I just waited for the explosion. It never came, and I heard the instructor say, "He's right, he can't do it," a sigh of relief came as I realized all was safe once again.
While in the training facility we spent a night in the mountains in a simulated combat environment. We hiked there in full combat gear in the hot California sun. I was issued a M14 rifle. At 2:00 AM I was awaken from my sleep when our camp was assaulted by the aggressors (Marines from the base). They were firing blanks to make it seem as real as possible. I had never fired the M14; nor even seen one prior to that day. By the time I figured it out I had become classified a casualty. Even on the bobby trap trail I was the first one killed in action. I certainly seemed to be striking out in my combat training experience!
The day for Vietnam arrived. Since I was single I was chosen to go a month earlier than the main battalion as the advance party for an 800 man Seabee battalion that was soon to follow. We started our trip on a commercial airplane of the World Airlines with a short stop in Alaska. We would eventually go half way around the world to do the job ahead of us in Vietnam.
When we landed at Da Nang airport we were ushered onto a C130 cargo plane to fly on to Phu Bi near Hue in Vietnam. The flight on World Airlines was great; but when I looked into the C130 cargo plane I was astonished. No seats! We were to sit on the belly of the plane in rows like sardines packed in a can. If that did not add insult to injury, when we arrived at the airport (if one could call it that), in Phu Bi, we were ushered into what one could term "cattle trailers" for the final leg of our trip. I remember looking out between the boards of the trailer as we went through Vietnam villages. We made it to the base in one piece with nothing but my pride being wounded.
Immediately after disembarking; I asked where the restroom was. I found out that all the modern conveniences I had taken for granted did not exist. It did not make any difference for at the sound of what I later learned was outgoing artillery; the need left me, even though I was in the midst of using the outside facility! At the time I did not know if it was outgoing, or incoming; other than it was loud, and shook the ground where I was standing. I did not know whether to appear to be brave or run for cover!
A similar situation, which I have on film, is when a USO show came to our camp. It was held on the stage of our outdoor movie theatre. A Korean man, and two women, sang and danced. During their performance we had what was termed a maniac minute. This is when all weapons open fire on the base perimeter at one time. I guess the women did not know if we were under attack because for a moment a look of fright appeared on their faces. They were real troopers though for they continued their act in spite of it all.
The Seabee camp was next to the 101st Airborne (Army) camp who sometimes frequented our mess hall for a meal. Our Executive Officer decided to discontinue this practice until they began to fire their large artillery piece over the mess hall at noontime. My plate would literally move about when this occurred. It was not long before they were accepted back into our mess hall once again. The army scored a victory over the Navy on that occasion.
One day the Executive Officer wanted someone to be his driver as he visited various job sites. He usually grabbed some of the office personnel to perform this function. I had been fortunate enough to not get drafted. But one day the Executive Officer said: "Petty Officer Burner, you haven't been with me yet, grab your gear and lets go." Just enough time to swallow the lump in my throat, say "Yes Sir," and grab my flak jacket, helmet, M16 and go. Actually it was an enjoyable trip, especially after he decided not to visit one job site that was extremely close to North Vietnam.
In another incident, in the wee hours of the morning, around 2:00 AM, we were ordered to man the lines. It was reported that the enemy was going to attack our camp and that of the 101st Airborne. Nothing happened but it does made one reflect on what could have been. During our time in Vietnam we had many rockets launched towards both camps. As soon as the enemy would launch their rockets Cobra gun ships went into action. They were "attack helicopters" with rockets. Initially there would be two or three circling above and then eventually none. When surveillance was dropped in would come more rockets. The enemy knew that if they launched rockets while the helicopters were in the air they would dive down and destroy them. This is how the enemy of our soul works when we let down our guard down.
I reported to Vietnam right after the major 68' Tet Offensive. I was glad to have the opportunity to be a small part of what the war was all about and felt it my duty to do so when called upon. Many draft dodgers deserted and went to Canada, and elsewhere, to escape this responsibility.
One night while I was working late in the office some rockets were launched toward the camp. I jumped into a bunker next to the office. I do not remember any fear but do remember having left my dog tags in the barracks and wondering if they would know who I was if anything happened. It is amazing what will cross one's mind under dire circumstances.
I did not witness actual combat in the sense that many had; though I earned the Combat Action Ribbon because of the rocket attacks. The Seabees were there to build roads and work on various construction projects. One Seabee in our battalion did get wounded when his bulldozer ran over a landmine. But he was doing fine by the time we arrived stateside. Vietnam did bring me closer to the Lord but unfortunately with my departure so did the closeness. I say this with sadness because I could have been a good soldier for Jesus Christ as well during the same period of time.
When my time for R & R (Rest and Recuperation), for seven days, came I had an opportunity to go to Australia, Hong Kong, or Hawaii. I chose Hong Kong with $600 in my pocket (which amounted to quite a bit in those days). I became a typical sailor once again enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season.
When I climbed into the Jolly Green Giant transport helicopter to Da Nang no one told me to wear earplugs. The fact that we had door gunners on the helicopter was a grim reminder that this was still Vietnam even though I was about to leave it behind a few days.
When we arrived in Da Nang and I disembarked from the helicopter I asked someone where Red Beach was. I saw their lips moving but could not hear them; for a moment I was deaf. The noise of the helicopter had temporarily deafened me. I set down on a bench and after awhile my hearing was restored. For a brief moment in my life I had actually experienced what it was like to be deaf. Obviously, on my return helicopter ride I had earplugs!
With six days of R & R under my belt it was time to return to finish my tour in Vietnam. I did do a little sight seeing in Hong Kong, stayed at a really nice hotel, and had what I thought was a good time with all the niceties of sinful living; including booze, women, and what I thought was a good time. I look back now with a realization that it certainly could have been a costly one had I somehow perished in the midst of such a sinful lifestyle.
After returning to Vietnam several of us Seabees got into the back of a large military truck and went sightseeing to the city of Hue not far from the Camp. My understanding is that it had once been the Capital of Vietnam and its ruler lived in a palace which we visited. Entering into the city we were greeted by some children who called us some not so nice names. But it was made up by a little boy named Joe.
Joe showed us around, for a small fee, and was a real likable kid. We all had to take our firearms with us. I had just been field promoted to E-6 and was able to carry a .45 caliber sidearm rather than the M16. I had only fired a .45 handgun once; when my foster father allowed me to do so at home when growing up. Had I been required to use it while in Vietnam it certainly would have been interesting as to the outcome! But it still beat carrying the M16 around; especially when it was not likely there would be a need to use it on the sightseeing tour. This was probably one of the most pleasurable times I had while in Vietnam. I have many movies taken while in Vietnam. I purchased a 8MM movie camera at the PX and I still have those movies though converted to a DVD.
One day one of our convoys to Da Nang was ambushed. One of the Seabees involved returned to base shaking like a leaf. He said he was making a routine supply run. He did not have his M16 with him when he jumped into a ditch alongside the road they were traveling on. A Vietnamese woman was shot in the stomach during this encounter. A South Vietnamese soldier noticed the Seabee was not returning fire and thought he was out of ammo. He exposed himself to enemy fire to toss him some. It embarrassed the Seabee that he took such a risk and him with no weapon. The Seabee only had 30 days left before his tour in the Navy was up. He was a very shaken young man.
We had another Seabee who got my attention because he carried more than the normal loaded clips. He was a quiet man and did not say much. My curiosity got the best of me. I decided to find out why. I had access to his service record and found out he had been awarded the Silver Star for valor. He had been, on a previous deployment, in a Special Forces camp that was partially overrun by the enemy. He had run out of ammo and it was hand-to-hand combat from then on. It looked like he was determined to not have that happen again!
The time of NMCB TEN's departure from Vietnam was near. Most of the leaders of the Administrative Section (being married) went back on the advance party to NMCB TEN's base in California. I, as a brand new field promoted E-6 (unmarried), had to take on a more than normal leadership position. Some of the men decided to take me to task, as a leader, and goof off. I ordered an inspection, the next day, in proper uniform. I found out though a friend that they were planning a blanket party (the covering of an individual with a blanket and then beating the tar out of him) the night before the inspection.
I had this person's assurance (an E-5) that he would be by my side if this did occur. It did not; and the men gathered the next morning for inspection in full uniform! There were no further problems after that incident. The E-7 who ran the office, prior to his departure, lived in a different place than the men who worked for him but I had to live with those who I had leadership over making it more difficult.
We departed Vietnam via air to Da Nang and from there a flight back to the States. Looking back I am thankful to have served my country (in Vietnam) in the minor capacity that I did. I am also thankful to the Lord that I did not have to take a human life while there. I would have done so had duty warranted it. Many have seen the horrors of war and are unwillingly to relive those moments and share them with others. I can certainly understand that; they are the true heroes.
In 2014 I met a Vietnam Veteran who served in the Army. He could not speak but had to write on a slate board what he wanted to say. He had suffered numerous problems due to the Agent Orange, used against the enemy in Vietnam, which included the loss of his voice. He had given a lots for his service in Vietnam and was still suffering from his time there. In this causal acquaintance I highly respected this fellow Vet who had obviously given a lots for his service in Vietnam; and was still doing so.
Scripture tells us that many waters cannot quench love; neither can the floods drown it (Solomon 8:7). Port Hueneme was the fulfillment of that scripture as far as I was concerned. I fell madly in love with the one whom I was to share 27 memorable years.
I had just returned from my tour of duty in Vietnam when the apple of my eye came into focus. Our love for one another was to span all the trials of life that would eventually bring us to the Lord. Our marriage vows would be put to the test in many different ways. Then death would enter into the picture and I was to lose the one who shared the joys of life and pain with me.
She would be the one who would later introduce me into the Pentecostal realm. But first we were to encounter the dark side before the warmth of a Savior's love would come into focus. I remember one night in particular that she was a beauty to behold. Her blond hair was blowing in the cool night breeze. She had a dark brown vest offset with a white blouse. It was matched with a leather skirt and boots that heightened her short 5' 3" stature. Her brown eyes and sweet smile were radiant with laughter as we were struggling to navigate a small hill, as we headed toward my car, after a night on the town. We both were laughing at our inability to reach our destination but we succeeded in doing so.
We were to weather many storms together. I was a 26-year old bachelor with no thoughts towards marriage but all that was to change. After our initial getting acquainted in Port Hueneme duty would call me elsewhere. I would soon deploy with the Seabee battalion I was attached too. This time we would be headed for a stretch of duty in the Philippines. I thought that the change of geographic location would end the love affair. But it was not to be for her letters flowed despite the many miles that separated us. Even going back to my former ways, in the pursuit of companionship, did not alter what was intended to be. The phrase love conquers all certainly applied in this case.
After having served in the Philippines, both with the Seabees and then coming into its Naval port on an aircraft carrier, I would never have thought that later in life I would be supporting a ministry in the Philippines in a personal way. God can certainly turn things around to His advantage.
The Seabee detachment I was on in the Philippines was to accomplish whatever construction projects were assigned to it. I was there to administratively support the detachment. As I stated before I enjoyed my tour of duty with the Seabees in the two years that I was attached to them. They were a unique outfit that I was proud to have served with.
One day while in the town outside the base, I saw an item in a store that I wish I had made the investment to obtain it. A life-size hand carved wooden cross with the Lord on it. He looked so real that you could even see the veins stand out in him arms and hands. A mere $300 could have purchased such a treasure. I guess it was another seed planted in a life that ventured into the unknown without the benefit of a Savior. But had not the initial acceptance been there I would not even have given notice to the cross.
Many times I would have split Hell wide open with no forgiveness, no Savior in my life, no opportunity for the cleansing blood of Jesus to be applied to a sin-ridden life. I am so thankful and grateful that I can pen these words of just how much that love meant to a sinner such as I. I could only put myself at the mercy of God, smite my breast, as the Publican described in the Bible, and say: "Be, merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13).
Later in life, I became endeared to the Philippines towards the saving of souls; as previously mentioned. We serve a truly miraculous God who can change a day of devastation into one that serves His purpose. I pray that if you are reading this autobiography and you have not committed your life to the Lord that you will. Words cannot express the significance such a commitment until Jesus love flows into your heart and His forgiveness comes into your life.
I thought I had left a certain little blond when I deployed to the Philippines. But the letters kept coming and that relationship was rekindled by a long distance phone call. I remember one night looking out across the vast ocean that separated us. It was a beautiful night and my heart ached as I longed to be by her side once again. A couple of years after her death the Lord gave me a poem concerning that night.
The deployment to the Philippines ended and we were once again reunited in Port Hueneme, California. But our paths were to part once again when I was transferred to Hawaii for a tour of duty.
Guess who followed me to Hawaii? You are right that same 5' 3" blond. After she came to Hawaii we were married in Honolulu. We moved into a little studio apartment in downtown Waikiki. One large room became our living room, bedroom, and kitchen combined. But we liked its location. It was only a couple of blocks from a canal that run through Waikiki. I use to jog alongside it. Also; only a couple of blocks away, was the Waikiki beach with its abundance of shops and hotels.
There was even a military reservation; within walking distance from the apartment, with its own beach and recreation area. It was on our way there one night that my wife convinced me to stop and listen to a street side gospel band. My wife's name was Sue. She and I stopped for awhile to listen but then continued on to the beach. Another seed planted towards the betterment of the soul.
We would spend many nights just strolling along this paradise enjoying each other's company. Those wondrous nights and days were filled with our love towards one another. Sue had so much love to share and was one of those rare individuals who could share that love with many and be liked by all.
I have many fond memories of Hawaii. One of those was seeing a stature shown on the television program Hawaii Five-0. We spent about a year trying to find its location. It was located in the National Cemetery of the Pacific where many who died in World War II are buried.
The star of Hawaii Five-0 was Jack Lord. Before we left Hawaii Sue had her picture taken with all the stars of the TV show; including Jack Lord. She would pursue them wherever needed to obtain a picture of her and them together. We would even attempt to follow them from the studio to where they were shooting a scene.
One day we were following one of the stars in a big black car until they spotted us and kicked into high gear and left us behind in a cloud of dust. Sue not to be deterred; simply directed me to go back to the studio and then follow a truck to the location of the filming. There was no way to deter Sue from obtained her goal. That day she got a picture of her and the main star of the show Jack Lord. If one could seek the Lord, in like fashion, there would be a greater treasure to obtain than the mere picture of a TV star.
In the earlier days of our marriage, Sue made an attempt to bake a cake in a portable oven. It was a disaster! I did not help in the matter for it had split right down in the middle and I asked her if there had been an earthquake. She started crying; ran into the bathroom, and locked the door!
Another time I noted a sexy lady on TV advertising a mattress. I made a comment about the woman while sitting on a hassock. She let swing with her arm and knocked this 6' 1", 200 pound man right off that hassock. Needless to say when that commercial came on again I would look the other way!
Hawaii was so full of memories that I could probably write a book just covering the three years we were there. It was truly a Hawaiian paradise. The only fault I found was a desire to get on an interstate and travel as far as I wanted to go. We were on the island of Oahu and one could go around the entire island in a matter of hours.
Our marriage did get a little rocky at times while stationed in Hawaii. I probably could have owned a small share in United Airlines and the telephone company. But rocky or not our marriage held in tact despite the obstacles. It does my heart good to hear others celebrate their anniversaries revealing how long their marriages have flourished. I believe in the vows made to each other when a marriage takes place. I believe that if it is only a superficial love it will not flourish. If it is the genuine article that will outweigh all hindrances that may attempt to beset it. I gave Sue a crystal glass, with a rose in it, and the words "Love Grows." Truly it will if one allows it to go its natural course.
Hawaii had a romantic setting of its own. We would go walking through the heart of Waikiki and it would make one feel as if they were in a totally different world. It could help take away any pains of the day as one bathed in the glow of a resort style atmosphere. We were in Navy housing for awhile but were soon drawn back to the place we have grown so fond of; the heart of Waikiki. I do not know if you have ever been there but, as newly weds, we never forgot its kindness towards the blossoming forth of romance and commitment.
Freedom from alcohol came while in Hawaii. I had been under its bondage for some ten years. Freedom came through three avenues: fear that I would have to answer for some wrong that I had committed while under its influence; even though I may not have remembered doing so. The second reason was I developed a medical problem that make me sick when I indulged. But the final reason was when Sue threatened to leave me if I continued to pursue life in such a manner. I wish I could have said it was the Lord who delivered me but maybe in a round about way He did. As yet I was not a Christian; though an unseeing hand towards a life in Christ was guiding me.
One neighbor I well remember while in Hawaii was Joe. When I used profanity in my speech he would immediately hold up his hands and pray for me. Sometimes I would walk past his apartment and see him facing the wall and praying. It had its influence on me. Then one night his wife came to our back door, she said someone was drunk and knocking on her front door. I went outside and found her husband, my praying saint, drunk and rolling on the ground. But of all the time I knew him that was the only time I ever saw him in that condition. I thank God for Joe's prayers because I knew they were genuine. His religion affiliation did not condemn the use of alcohol.
Joe's wife was a Vietnamese and a little delicate thing; both Sue I were fond of them both. Even though he was only a busboy clearing off tables in a restaurant he had an aspiration to be Mayor and was thinking of running. He was a unique individual. One humorous incident in our association was when both of our wives were away he invited me over for supper. He had prepared a spaghetti supper which included garlic bread. A roach came on the table and Joe broke off a little piece of the garlic bread and fed him. He said he was one of God's creatures too. I told him if I saw any in my apartment I would send them over. One could write volumes concerning those who they have come in contact with in their lifetime.
One day Joe's dad came to visit his son. While he was there he found out that his home, in the states, had been burglarized. I heard him make a remark that I shall never forget: "My treasures are in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does not corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal" (Matthew 6:20).
Another such instance, much later in life, drew a similar response. On Christmas day, while our friends was in a Sunday church service on a Sunday morning, they received word that their home was on fire. When I arrived, the husband was looking at what was left of their home, nothing but ashes, and said: "These are only material things." That night, at church, he read a scripture: "For we know that if our earth house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2 Corinthians 5:1).
Even in the mist of their great loss God blessed them abundantly with much more. Where does one's priorities fall on such occasions? We live in a time when one oftentimes embraces material gain with an unwillingness to turn loose. They are then devastated when loss occurs. Let us pray that our attitude will be of a godly example such as my friends.
Though we only spent three years in Hawaii it is hard to close that chapter of my life with so few words. Those years have been implanted in my heart as dear; the beginning of an almost 27-year marriage, and release from the bondage of alcohol. I relish the thoughts that have been captured of Hawaii because for the most part they were all pleasant ones. Then there was that special person. A cute little blond, brown eyed, a loving person who was to share those blessed years with me. Those times bring a smile to my lips when I revisit them in my thoughts. I hope they have somehow blessed you also in my sharing them.
Of the many duty stations I have served over a 20-year career in the military, I cherished my time in the Seabees and carrier duty the most. The USS RANGER (CVA-61) was a literal floating city when she was deployed with her air group aboard. A 4,000 plus crew; no ladies allowed at that time, comprised her manpower.
Below the hanger bay there were no port holes to look out to see the sunshine, clouds, or whatever the weather held. You had to go to the flight deck or hanger bay to see such a view. When we did not have flight operations I would go to the flight deck and enjoy God's creation with the splendor of rolling waves and a cool salty breeze hitting my face. At night in my sleeping quarters, when we had night flight operations, I could hear the thud of planes, as they landed, while I was in my bunk.
One time the skipper of our carrier went 50 miles off course so we would cross the equator. This was for the benefit of hundreds of "slimy pollywogs," the term used for those who had never crossed the equator; of which I was one. It was quite an initiation and even included the Executive Officer (second in command) of our ship who had never crossed before. Those who had crossed the equator were called "shellbacks." They gladly provided various forms of pollywog punishment during the initiation ceremony. Short lengths of fire hose became very effective "persuaders" in the hands of those fearsome shellbacks.
Some pollywogs were marked for "special treatment." One pollywog who worked in our office had a dog collar placed on him, with a lease attached to it, and had to get on his hands and knees and bark like a dog. If he did not bark loud enough he would receive a whack from the "persuader." Others got a taste of some ancient methods of punishment before being accepted into King Neptune's ancient realm.
My special treatment, along with others, consisted of having axle grease rubbed into my hair, and elsewhere. Other stops included crawling through a chute of garbage, into a tub full of "the briny deep" and attempting to blow water out of cable holders on deck while streams of water were shot into them with a fire hose.
The final part of the initiation process, the ceremonial dunking, came until one acknowledged their transition from a pollywog to a shellback. Until that realization came, they would continue to dunk you until it registered that were indeed a Shellback. Unfortunately, I never got to mete out the punishment to other pollywogs for I was to never cross the equator again.
There were moments of excitement as well on our deployment. One time, after we went though a narrow passage from one ocean to another, we were greeted on the other end by a Russian cruiser that followed us the entire time we were in the area. Another time a Russian fishing vessel kept an eye on us. It was loaded with electronic surveillance equipment. Our skipper sent over some ice cream and Playbook magazines by the way of a helicopter.
Another time a Russian spy plane, that made our fighter planes look like mere bumblebees as they flew beside it, passed over our carrier. I went up on the flight deck to get a picture of the plane. In the process I had to cross over to the other side to get a better picture. When I ducked under some missile pods, on one of the planes, I did not duck low enough and received a scalp wound.
When I saw what looked like little brown specks, cross in front of my eyes, I did not realize it was my own blood until I felt it oozing down the side of my face. I immediately headed for sickbay for help. While the Russian spy plane, called the "Bear" flew overhead, I was on the operating table having my wound stitched up. The only picture I saw of the plane was the one published in the Ship's Plan of the Day the next day!
There are many intriguing stories one could recall in their military experiences, too vast to place in one book alone, but forever embedded in one's mind to be treasured from time to time as they reappear in one's thoughts. So is it in other adventures in life. I am bringing these moments to you, as they are recalled in my own mind, and hope they will be both revealing, as well as rewarding, as they are expounded upon. It is rewarding to pen upon paper happier moments in one's life but often there are those too painful to recall as well.
While on the USS Ranger I can say overall that it was a rewarding experience. My wife enjoyed my time in the military and was especially fond of the of the USS Ranger. The ship was indeed a beauty to behold when planes were lined up on her flight deck! She now has been deemed as no longer operational but she has served her country well.
After duty on the USS Ranger I was transferred to shore duty to staff duty in Norfolk Virginia. It was my final duty station before retiring after 20 years military service. It was there that I made the rank of Chief Petty Officer. I had passed the exam for Chief Petty Officer (E-7) then my record went before the Examining Board to be reviewed. I was one of 50 who were selected for Chief Yeoman out of the 500 reviewed. When I was in Vietnam, out of a battalion of 800 men, only 20 were field promoted; of which I was one. It may have been earned but I still thank the God whom I serve for His blessings from on high.
While still in the service, in a little country church in Pungo, Virginia, a twenty minute drive from Virginia Beach, where we lived, I turned my life over to the Lord in 1978. It was then that I became a thorn in the flesh to some who did not with to hear about the one whom I fell tea totally in love with; the Lord of my life. I wanted to tell everyone but not everyone wanted to hear; which created a problem in my work area.
One day I was called into the Office of the Division Officer, a Lieutenant, who said "Chief, these are people you have to work with and I want you to work it out." Work it out I did. I went to each office (of which there were five), that was affiliated with my job, drank coffee, chatted, but never mentioned the Lord! Later, after acceptance by my peers came, the Lord opened doors for me to witness which did not hinder the work I was tasked to do.
It was unique day when I wholeheartedly received the Lord into my life! His realness became very apparent and breathtaking. My wife had previously introduced me to the Pentecostal realm and I was sort of getting the feel of things when an unusual occurrence came into focus. I had gone to church, one Sunday morning, and the Pastor of the church came in driving in a shiny new car. I was driving a car that was on its last leg and told my wife that my tithes had helped pay for his new car and I wasn't going back to church that night! She said that if I felt that way I needed to go.
I followed her advice, though reluctant, and went to church that night. When the altar call was given I went forward and asked God, "If you are an all powerful God you ought to be able to show me." I felt the presence of His Spirit for the first time in my life; from the top of my head, to the tip of my toes. Even as others were leaving I was still basking in the presence of the Lord. I asked the Pastor what in the world happened to me and he said that he felt that I had just received a good dose of sanctification (of being set apart unto God).
When I departed church I felt like I was on cloud nine. I witnessed an car accident and did not want to be disturbed by so minor a thing. I did not want to come down from the spiritual high I was on. My wife said I needed to report that I had witnessed the accident, which I did, and later found it to be beneficial to a policeman involved in the accident with some teenagers.
My wife had not gone to church that night but it was obvious to her what I had experienced; for she grew up in the Pentecostal realm and knew about the presence of Lord. There is nothing like the presence of God's Spirit in one's life! Since that night I have felt the presence of God's Spirit many times; both while worshiping in the church, and at other times away from the church.
In regards to feeling God's presence I want to convey to you two incidents. One was when I picked up a hitchhiker in Virginia Beach. After he got into my car I began a casual conversation with him. It was in the midst of the conversation that I felt the presence of God's Spirit and I did not know if this was an indication that I should witnessed to him or not. When he got out of my car on the back of his motorcycle jacket was the words "Bloody Sabbath."
Another incident of wonderment, at the feeling of God's presence, was later in life when we were attempting to relocate to another area in the Farmington community in Tennessee. We had just purchased a piece of land to put a mobile home on. I was by myself on this newly purchased piece of property. Someone had placed footers, for another mobile home, on the adjourning property, and I went over to check it out.
When I arrived at the site of this undertaking I felt the presence of God's Spirit in this open field with no one around. Little did I know that this would be the location of our future home. God works in mysterious ways for had we not relocated to that property; the place we were going to place our mobile home, would have been a disaster!
As I previously mentioned it as at my last duty station that I was promoted to Chief Petty Officer (E-7). The normal initiation was in the Chief Petty Officer's Club. I did not want to participate in a drinking environment which would have occurred if I went to the normal initiation. My fellow Chief Petty Officers gave me an initiation in my Division and it went extremely well.
I believe if one takes a stand for the right thing, as a believer, God will honor one's devotion to Him, and His standards, and make a way where seemingly there is no way. One of the Chief Petty Officers involved in my initiation said he felt it was one of the better ones he had attended.
When I neared retirement I was concerned about someone replacing my Christian witnessing. I was witnessing on the work bus, which I rode on a daily basis, and God miraculously replaced me with a devoted Christian who carried on when I departed. Another area of witnessing was in my work place; but again God miraculously replaced me with another Chief Petty Officer with a Pentecostal background as well!
At the church I attended I was equally concerned about a replacement; as we were a small church. Again, God had someone there to take my place but the designated individual listened to another influence rather than the calling of God. I still believe that he was God's man and missed the opportunity to have been a blessing to others through God's calling.
My wife and I were at odds concerning moving to Tennessee. Her people had moved to Tennessee to a place called Chapel Hill and she wanted to go there after my retirement. I was content where I felt God had placed me. My wife moved to Tennessee to be with her family and I remained in Virginia Beach to continue serving the Lord. It was not long before she returned and said she wanted to be with me wherever I was!
We later went to Tennessee to visit her family, and went to a church where the Pastor led us in the song, "Give Me that Old Time Religion." I had not heard it sang; that I could remember, in the Virginia church. But when we returned to Virginia; our Pastor in the midst of a revival, opened with the same song. I looked at my wife, and she looked at me, and we gave each other a high sign of YES!
The Pastor of the church had a problem with my leaving; for he felt that God had told him I was to be his right hand man. I was in that capacity until God gave another direction for my life. The Pastor, while working in construction, fell and injured some disks in his back and had to spend time in the hospital. He had an evangelist fill in for him. It was that night that I received confirmation as to God's direction for my life.
The evangelist stated that if there was a need in any one's life he would stay until midnight; if need be, for an answer. It was pass midnight when the answer came for God's direction in my life. The answer was provided through the power of the Holy Ghost (that of God's Spirit). He revealed that there was a works in Tennessee for me and souls to be saved!
When the Pastor has returned from the hospital he tried to get me to stay on but I knew that it was God's will that I go elsewhere and could see no reason for delaying that move. In writing a departing note to the Pastor: I told him of how an Oak Tree would, at a certain time of the year, drop its propeller driven seeds which would then produce additional growth, in yet other areas. I believed, I was as that seed, leaving one location, to that of another, to perform God's Will for my life!
I was retired from the military, presently unemployed, and living with my wife's people in Chapel Hill, Tennessee. Three families in one big house proved quite interesting! Fortunately for all concerned it worked out rather well. My wife's people were easy to get along with.
I remember the last time I seen my wife's mother the day prior to her death. She gave me a young girl sort of smile, a youthful look for her age, and that was the way I remember her! The next day she died of a massive heart attack. There is an interesting feature concerning her death. The Lord had shown me, through His Spirit, about a year before she died, a polka dotted dress. I asked my wife if she knew anyone who had one; for at the time her mother did not own one and she said no.
The day she, and her sister, were to take the clothes for their mother's burial to the funeral home there were two dresses laid on the bed; one was the polka dotted dress and another. They were undecided as to which one to use. I said nothing until they decided on the polka dotted dress she was to be buried in. It is amazing what God can reveal to us ahead of time.
Another such incident was when the preaching of the Word of God was being neglected at a church. God showed me the large family bible which the preacher used to minister from. It was as if God placed it in a picture frame and showed me that it was not being utilized as it should be.
Another time the Lord revealed to me that a woman's affliction was due to her unwillingness to forgive a person. He even showed me how to present it to her where it would be accepted. I failed to be obedient and later tried to make up for it; through my own feeble efforts, and failed miserably. When God reveals things to us; we need to be obedient or lose out on a blessing in helping others.
Another time when I was seeking the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, God's indwelling Spirit, I was utilizing the top of a large recliner as my prayer request postings. I had little strips of a 3 x 5 card taped on it with my prayer requests written on them. On one such request I wrote "tongues" but I misspelled it. I was seeking the Baptism of the Holy Ghost (that of God's Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues in accordance with the Book of Acts, Chapter 2). The night I received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost I also laughed in the Spirit; when the Lord revealed to me that one desperate request, though there were about 19 others, and tongues was misspelled just the way I had written it!
While at the church in Chapel Hill I worked at the hospital a little distance from Chapel Hill. I had been involved in Administration while in the military and was hired to work in Medical Records at the hospital. I was the only male with twelve women employees in that department. You guessed it; this did cause some problems!
I was asked by the Medical Records Director to draw up some plans for renovation of the office area as we were going to become computerized. I draw up the plans, as requested, and it was rumored that I had prepared a special place for myself in those plans! Obviously, I did not; but you could not convenience them of that.
I worked at Medical Records for twelve months when an incident came into my life that altered by continuation in that department. We were in the midst of a spiritual revival at the church, in Chapel Hill, and it was prophesied that I would be going through a deep dark tunnel but that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel.
The next day I will never forget. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and I felt full of God's glory while traveling to work. Suddenly something came over me and I thought I was experiencing a heart attack. When I got to the hospital I went to the Emergency Room but they could find nothing wrong with me. It would be five years before I would learn what was wrong with me! It was five long years; of a fear coming over me, with a disruption in my body, that I could not explain or understand.
One day, I was speaking to the Assistant Director of Medical Records, and was told of an opening in the Data Process Department of the hospital. I applied and was accepted. It was the night shift and I stayed at that job for eight additional months. I really enjoyed working in Data Process. I accumulated the information fed into the computers during the day and then ran off the information in a report format to be distributed throughout the hospital; including transmitting it to another location, outside the hospital.
I still had to deal with the fear that would come over me and sometimes my wife would ride along, at my worse moments, to help me out. However, I never could adjust to working the night shift and trying to sleep during the day. After eight months I finally gave a two week notice to the hospital. I found out later that the position was upgraded to require a BA degree in computer technology. Several years later; after my resignation, I was offered a different position in the hospital but declined as I was already in another job that suited me, and my ministry, and was nearer to my home in Chapel Hill.
One day I was listening to a radio talk show out of Nashville and they had a testimony of a well-known TV weatherman from the nationally known "Today Show." He began to explain what happened to him and I knew it was what I was going through - Panic Attacks. It would be 17 long years before I would be delivered by God from this fear that had invaded my body. Seventeen years was a long time to be in that deep dark tunnel that was prophesied! I confided to no one, of this condition, except my wife and a doctor.
The doctor gave me a pill and said it would be over within six months; obviously it was not. At one point in my life, while living at Chapel Hill, I would not even leave the confines of my home because of this condition that had engulfed me. One day, while in the worse part of this affliction, I saw a cat that about to have her kittens walk in front of me while out on the porch of my home in Chapel Hill. A thought came into my mind that I would never see those kittens come into existence. Scripture reveals that Satan is a liar and the father of it (John 8:44) but at that point in life I was almost persuaded to believe I would never see those kittens born.
I managed to continue working, function in my Christian ministry, though somewhat limited in what I could do as far as the Ministry was concerned. We had a couple come to the house, who we knew from our previously Chapel Hill church, to sell us some pots and pans and ended up selling us a church! They testified about all that was happening in this little Pentecostal church including a miraculous healing of a hole in a baby's heart. We then begin attending the church in Wheel, Tennessee. It was a small community with only one store and we rented a house close to the store and church.
My wife and I would pass by an old country home (pictured above) not far from where we were renting. It was vacant with grass and weeds growing up around it. My wife seemed drawn to it and was attempting to get me interested. It had 7 1/2 acres, a pond, a large barn, and a couple of smaller buildings. It also had a storm shelter. I finally agreed to see about purchasing it; we did and moved in.
I searched for a job about a month, after resigning my position at the hospital, without any luck, until a friend at the church told me of an opening where he worked. It was an answer to prayer for I was attempting to make it on my military retirement pay with a large amount of credit card debt I had accumulated while in the military.
I applied for the job and started out at minimum wage. The owner was a little concerned because he knew that I had always been involved in administrative work which proved valuable for him at a later date. I told him that I did not think he would regret hiring me. I guess he never did for I was to spend the next 30 years there and ended up being shop foreman of the manufacturing department.
We were to spend five years in the Wheel community. The old country house was a challenge. It had a wood burning stove which I fed through a supply of slabs purchased at a nearby saw mill. I then had to bust them up with an ax before burning them in the stove. The barn was in need of repair and I spend lots of time on the roof attempting to keep the tin from flying off. It was not the safest job but thank the Lord I never had any bad spills or injuries.
My wife wanted to raise chickens and we had some entertaining moments to accomplish that desire. We had a friend come over to show her how to kill and prepare the chickens for eating. Our only problem was that we had befriended the chickens making them more like pets than for the supper table. Our solution was to purchase some store brought whole chickens, and wrap ours, and the store brought ones, in the same type wrapper!
My wife talked me into purchasing a young pig to raise for butchering; when it was large enough to do so. Later, when the time came to ship him off; I can still picture his looking at me funny like, as we were loading him for butchering! Then my wife wanted to get a calf and raise it for the same purpose. I had a person offer to give us a calf; if we would allow him to graze his cattle on our land.
I thought that was a wonderful ideal and when my neighbor wanted to graze a couple of her horses in the same place I said OK also. When the person who owned the cattle found out; he was real mad, and came for his cattle. He did leave the calf and we later butchered it for meat. That was it, as far as I was concerned, and we done away with the ideal of raising out own food, including the chickens, which we only kept for supplying us with eggs.
My wife had her heart fixed towards the beauty of mobile homes in comparison with the old country home environment we were living in. She persuaded me, through I was reluctant, to go with her just to look at some mobile homes. In comparison to the farm house they seemed luxurious; completely furnished, and ready to be set up and moved into. We decided to put our home up for sale into two parcels; acres without the home and a smaller amount of acreage with the home. We sold the acres without the home first and utilized that money to purchase land for our mobile home.
Our Pastor, a dear friend of ours, attempted to help find acreage near the city of Lewisburg (where I worked) and found some; however, it almost become a drastic mistake. It was 2 1/2 acres out in the country with only a few houses and mobile homes located nearby. We purchased the land and I staked out the location on the land where we had decided to place our mobile home. Our home sold and we were ready to finalize the move. We located a mobile home that we liked but could not afford the amount needed to seal the deal.
The salesman said he knew of a place, that was ready to be occupied, which was brand new and already set up. The salesman took us to the place, next to our previously purchased land, and the home was indeed ready to be moved into, with all utilities hooked up, and was affordable. My wife did request a fire place be inserted, in the living room; along with a sliding glass door, which were two features later appreciated.
While I was in the salesman's office, to talk over the deal, I remembered I had an appointment with someone in the church, and asked to use his phone. Prior to this, my wife and I had prayed, about the home, and a scripture came to mind which we stood upon. That same scripture was written on a place card near the phone I was using! We knew it was a confirmation from the Lord.
We exchanged our 2 1/2 acres for the one our future home was located on (even swap) and moved into our new mobile home. That very weekend we had a tremendous amount of rain come down on us and was surrounded by a lake of water. Since the home had been located on a little knoll, that want through the center of the home, it did not get into the home or mini-barn. The Lord had made a way of escape in that a strip of land, for from our front door to the road it never got under water.
Our driveway would be covered by water, for 4-5 days after a downpour, and I would have to park next to the road; but it was more of an inconvenience than anything. People would drive slowly by and look at all the water. I was tempted to put up a sign that read "Lakefront Property for Sale" or put a sump pump in the center of our little lake and have a fountain of water shooting up; but never did.
The weekend, of the appearance of our first lake, I looked over to where I had staked out the land, for locating our mobile home, and the stakes were covered over by water. There would have been no way of escape had we placed our mobile home there! The people who eventually bought the land placed their home way in the back so there only problem was their lane to the road being covered over. One time they actually used a boat to go get their mail!
I called the people who had sold us the mobile home, convinced that they knew that the problem existed; and it was why the previous owners had not moved in. They denied it, of course, and persuaded us to remain. Water did get under the home, at times, but other than that, just a little inconvenience to live with. I believe God, by His Spirit, give us confirmation as to where to locate, preventing what would have happened at the original location, had He not intervened!