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Jul 01

My Father Takes The Witness Stand

My Father

My Father

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.

Master Sergeant

Master Sergeant

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?”

Dad: “No.”

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.

 

I didn’t understand this fully at the time, but my father was modeling the love of our Heavenly Father.

With God, nothing we ever do or say can make Him love us any less.

In spite of anything you have done or will do. You are forgiven!

Christ died for ALL of it, so God could look at us and say,

“This is my child, who I love and did everything for!”

Grace is something we can never fully understand.

Next post, Thundercloud takes the stand…

  • Alan Baierl

    Wow David! Your dad loved you a lot to be willing to be your character witness after all the sleepless nights I’m sure you put them through. What a true model of how God is to us. Most parents would have walked away. Keep up the blog. It gets better every time.

    • David Mike

      Thank you Alan. At the time, I still did not understand the full implications of what was going on. I am now really understanding it all as I write it out. I’m glad they supported me through everything. There is more to come.

  • Darren Mike

    Ok. This one brought me to tears.
    Love you David!

    • David Mike

      Love you too Darren! Thanks for supporting what I am doing here. I know it can’t be easy on all kinds of different levels.

  • Sherry Fletcher Aus

    This one tugs at my heart. Your father exhibits the unconditional love of a parent. We may not always agree with the choices our children make, but we are there to pick them up when they fall. A true reflection of how our heavenly Father is there for us.

    • David Mike

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts Sherry. I am glad that God is using my mess for his message.

  • The testimony from your dad is riveting and the parallel you draw to our Father in heaven is piercing and powerful. Your father’s unwavering presence here creates so much emotion, especially to hear it in his own words; there is something about hearing him describe you as he saw you that adds a whole new level to your narrative. And that you are able to show us his pain, holding back tears, shows us so much of his love for you.

    • David Mike

      I appreciate all the insight you share with each post. It is helping me see things a little differently, which will help with writing the book. Thank you so much!

  • Charles Johnston

    It is overwhelming and amazing the levels of forgiveness both an earthly and our heavenly father can possess. This was the moment or at least the pivot I have been anxiously waiting for..well done.

    • David Mike

      Charles (My middle name!) This is the first of three major pivotal moments in my story. Two involve my father and the the last is something different. Thanks keeping up with me.

  • Tammy Fuller

    This one made me cry. This must have been so difficult for both you and your dad.

    • David Mike

      It was very difficult for my dad to maintain composure but not difficult to show up for me. At this time in my story, I still had some maturing to do.

  • mintlaka

    Very powerful. What a wonderful example of unconditional love. And praise God that He put an open heart in you so that you could see Him through your earthly father. I do so love happy endings!

    • David Mike

      Much later in life, I am growing to understand these things. I helps being a father myself. This blog post had a happy ending but the story is not over yet. More to come. Thanks for your consistent comments.

  • Dana (Mike) Jeffries

    Dang it David! You made my cry! You and Dad are very much alike. You being a Father, can fully understand! Everything you’ve been through has made you who you are today. You found God & turned your life around! What a great example! Love you!

    • David Mike

      Thank you Dana, Love you too!

  • I was going good until those last few paragraphs, then it was me fighting back tears. Your father was an amazing example. And it sounds like he was continuing to do what he had always done, showing his love for you and being an Christ-like example. I was captivated this during this whole post! Can’t wait for your next one!

    • David Mike

      I’m glad you are still reading Brandon. I appreciate your comment. Next post, Thundercloud takes the stand.

  • Steven Tessler

    This is the best post so far!! I was like a father to many of the sailors that I was in charge of.
    When they got into trouble I’d have to let the Commanding Officer know what I thought of them.
    Many times the chain of command above me would want me to not want me to tell the truth as to how I knew what they were before they got into trouble.
    I knew in my heart they were good people that just made a mistake and didn’t have to receive the maximum punishment so I stuck to my guns and defended them like your father did here.
    Years later I to get thank you’d for that.
    Your dad is an awesome man just like you David!!

    • David Mike

      Thanks Steven! I’m sure you were able to help those guys by just letting them know you cared. You are awesome! I appreciate your unwavering support.

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