My Father Takes The Witness Stand.
The reason I wanted my dad at the trial was because he was really my best chance.
A chance at letting the court get to know the man behind the mess I had created for myself.
I thought he would be able to let the people deciding my fate, know that I had turned a very sharp corner in my life.
That this person on trial was not the real me.
My dad raised me differently than this.
He might be able to share enough, so that they could look past the crimes and see a real person.
My father entered the courtroom, was sworn in and took the witness stand.
He looked quite a bit different than everyone else wearing his Class A uniform.
It was Air Force blue with bright white Master Sergeant stripes sewn on it. Everyone else in the courtroom was wearing Army green.
Captain Jokinen started with his questioning, “Master Sergeant Mike, you are the father of the accused in this case?”
He answered, “Yes, I am.”
As with all the other witness he was asked to talk about his military experience.
He had been in for twenty years and so he had quite a few things to say about the places he had been and the things he had done.
He was asked about our family.
My dad told my lawyer that he was married and that I was the oldest of four siblings.
My brother Darren was stationed in Germany, also serving in the Air Force.
My sister Dana was in high school and my youngest brother Daniel was in seventh grade.
The family atmosphere was pretty good, and we were a fairly tight knit group. We had a Baptist background and through that my dad tried to instill Christian virtues in all of us.
Of course there were times of sibling rivalry, because no one is perfect.
We got along fairly well and my dad said that I tended to be the stabilizing influence.
When he had to go away on temporary assignments, I would take over the father role and try to keep peace in the family when things needed to be worked out between the children.
Captain Jokinen asked about my performance in high school.
My dad said that I was a pretty good student and that my grades ranged by my interest in the subjects I took.
I never had any disciplinary problems.
Teachers always liked me and I got along fairly well with just about everyone.
He was asked to talk about my involvement in the JROTC program.
He said that when living in Louisiana I was in a Marine Corps JROTC unit where I was a platoon sergeant and was promoted to Cadet Second Lieutenant when I became the Drill Team Commander.
In Germany, they had an Air Force unit in which I had several positions that also included Drill Team Commander.
I was promoted to Cadet Major and was given the award of Outstanding Cadet of the Year.
Jokinen asked about my religious or church involvement.
He mentioned that I had attended some Christian schools over the years.
We regularly attended church or went to the base chapel. I had also been pretty actively involved in youth groups at all of the bases we were assigned to.
My lawyer said, “We notice David today wearing Army green and you’re in Air Force blue. Did you play a role in him entering the service?”
He replied, “No sir, not in the Army.”
He mentioned that he would have rather had me join the Air Force. It was kind of a bone of contention.
My vision would not allow me to be a helicopter pilot which was my first choice. So I followed the path of a friend of mine who was a year older.
He went in the Army as an Airborne Cavalry Scout and I made up my mind that I wanted to do that as well.
My dad said, “Well fine, I’ll back off and I’ll just let him do what he’d like to do, as long as what he does is the best he can possibly be.”
During training I would write to my family frequently. Once stationed at Ft. Polk I would call once or twice a month and write letters to fill in the gaps.
Captain Jokinen asked, “When did you first become aware of a problem with David?”
He said he didn’t remember the exact date but it was a phone call and I was rather distraught. I said, “I don’t know how to tell you this but here’s the problem.”
It hit my parents pretty hard, and they were devastated at what I had gotten myself into.
Jokinen: “Was that the David that had grown up in your home?”
Jokinen: “Did you understand why — what was going on?”
Dad: “No, I didn’t understand. I thought either it was a very traumatic experience or a dominant personality type that he had run into. I’m not sure. But he had never smoked, he never drank, didn’t cuss. It just wasn’t —“
Jokinen: “So what he was telling you he was involved with was terribly out of character?”
Dad: “Yes, sir.”
Jokinen: “Did he tell you at any point that he was, in fact, AWOL from the United States Army?”
Dad: “Yes, sir.”
Jokinen: “Did he have any contact with you during the course of this AWOL?”
Dad: “Yes, He would never say exactly where he was, but would still call and let us know that he was okay.”
Jokinen: “Did his absence from the Army and his involvement in drugs cause concerns and problems within the family in Germany?”
Dad: “Oh, absolutely, yes”
Jokinen: “Was there anything in the minds of the various members?”
Dad: “We didn’t let the grandparents know. We tried to keep that to ourselves. But it was very distressful. We were concerned about his safety. We didn’t know — being in that type of environment — I remember one time he was talking to us on the phone and then the phone just — from a phone booth — and it got cut off in the middle. It was some type of bad connection. But we didn’t know what to think — you know — is it — has he fallen prey to someone who wanted his money or what had gone on. But he kept in contact with us.”
My lawyer asked about the relationship between me and my parents and how open it was.
My dad said that it was pretty open.
We discussed things having to do with mind and heart.
Jokinen: “How did you feel once you got word that he had been apprehended and was back in military custody?”
Dad: “Relieved. Not happy but relieved. He was in at least a stable environment — someplace we knew was predictable — he was there. We were unhappy, of course, because of the circumstances. But he — now we knew he was in one location and we felt very relieved and were able to tell the grandparents — let them know. They had been — at a certain point we finally let them know that there was a problem and not to try to write David. And they also felt the relief and they had been praying for him, that everything would turn out all right under the circumstances.”
Jokinen brought up the second AWOL.
I purposefully missed my original trial date set for the 21st of November. The Army contacted my parents to let them know I had left again.
I had been concerned about going to jail and my representation.
My dad said he told me, “Well you need to turn yourself in. It will be the best thing for you. Things will only get worse.”
Jokinen: “Do you understand that the charges of which David stands convicted are very serious charges?”
Dad: “Yes, I do.”
Jokinen: “And I would imaging as a Master Sergeant in the Air Force you can’t condone his actions?”
Dad: “No, I can’t”
Jokinen: “By your presence here what do you hope to convey to this court as to David and his future?”
Dad: “I think his future will, hopefully, become somewhat what he was before he came into the Army. We had a support group there; we got along well. He was a totally different person it seems at that point. And I think there is definitely a good chance for rehabilitation; if not in the military, of course, definitely in the civilian life. I think the core of his being can be rehabilitated. His mother and I love him and we’re there to support him no matter what happens.”
Prosecution: “No questions, Your Honor.”
As I read through these transcripts and reprocess this time in my life, I remember sitting there watching my father try to save me. I watched him hold back tears.
As a proud career military veteran, he flew from Germany on official military orders to not only attend the court-martial of this disgraceful solider, but to stand up in uniform and say, “This is my son. I love him and I would do anything for him.”
He could have turned his back on me but he didn’t even though I deserved it.
My selfish stupidity.
My blatant disregard for my upbringing.
My fall away from faith.
My slap in the face to everything he stood for.
The hell I put my family through.
My father was willing to throw it all away for me just because I was his son.