While living with my family in Germany, we began to watch a lot of movies. Traveling Europe was fun but we couldn’t do it all the time. So going to the base theater or renting videos became a huge part of our life. The military would get the movies about six months after they were released but that didn’t matter to us. Between the years 1985 – 1987, I think we saw almost every movie released.
So in Leavenworth whenever the topic of movies came up, other inmates were amazed at how many I had seen. If someone would forget the name of a movie they would say, “Let’s go ask Siskel, Mike and Ebert”. It was something that I enjoyed and so I went to every movie that the DB showed. There were usually two to four movies a weekend.
After the weekend, I would do a little review of each one in my letters to home. Since it would be awhile before my family would see them, they would know which ones to skip because they were terrible. I would also let them know which ones to be sure not to miss. This also helped fill some material in the letters, because writing about daily events was becoming monotonous. Other that the occasional random event, life inside the walls was pretty boring.
Things were about to change.
In June 1991, family moved from Zweibruecken Germany to Omaha, Nebraska. My father’s new duty assignment was at Offut AFB. This meant that they would be close enough to come out to visit me. It was only about a two and a half to three hour drive to Fort Leavenworth. My brother Darren was serving in the Air Force and was stationed at different base in Germany, so I would not be seeing him for a while. My parents and my two other siblings, Dana and Daniel would be able to come.
Because I left home in 1987, I had not seen my family in three and a half years. The pictures that my mom would send me in the mail were the only reference to how much everyone had changed, but I wondered what everyone would look like in person. The last time I saw my dad was during my court-martial, which was about a year and a half ago. At that time I was in pretty bad shape. The time I spent on the run took its toll on me and with just one look at me, anyone could tell that I was a mess. Things were different now, the food here was good and I had been working out off and on. My skin had cleared up and I looked more human.
On a Saturday morning, I got the message that I had visitors. Once again, I was headed through the courtyard to the visitor’s center at South Gate. B-6 was positioned just across on the other side and so it wasn’t very far away. As I entered the main door, I received my shake down and then walked into the visitation room. There were quite a few other inmates there with their families. More than the last time I was here. The weekends seemed to be a lot busier.
Across the room was my family, sitting at a table, awaiting my arrival. Although I recognized them right away, I also didn’t at the same time. Just a few years can really change a person. My mom and dad really looked the same but my brother and sister were so grown up. It was surreal. When they saw me come through the door, they recognized me right away and quickly stood up. As I moved towards them, they all rushed up to me and hugged me. The moment was so full of emotion and tears began to fall from everyone’s eyes. Maintaining my composure was very difficult for me but I tried to stay strong.
We all sat down and started talking. Everyone had a lot of questions and I tried to answer them all. They seemed very interested in what some of the other inmates had done to get into this place. They asked what the food was like, what kind of things did I do to keep busy. Normal stuff that people ask inmates about prison, if there is such a thing. We reminisced over funny memories from our childhood and spent the entire day talking. Even though it had been awhile since I’d seen them, this was my family. They looked a little different but they acted the same. It didn’t take long for me to feel back at home. There wasn’t a way that we couldn’t really make up for lost time, but we took a pretty good crack at it.
Eventually the guards gave us a countdown to the end of visitation. The time we spent together was great but it went by way too quickly. It would have been great to stay with them longer but visitation time was coming to an end and they had a long drive back home. We said our goodbyes and I headed back through the exit door. On the other side of the door and out of view of my family, I received another shake down. This really didn’t bother me like it normally did. Nothing was going to bring me down this day.
What I did know for sure was, that they would be coming back again and as much as possible. It wouldn’t be every weekend, but I was alright with that. Having spent this time with my family and having them living so close to me now, gave me hope for my future.
I asked my brother Daniel and my sister Dana to share their memory of their first visit with me.
The last time I had seen David in person was a sad day in 1987 as he was boarding a plane in Germany to go to Basic Military Training. The last thing I remember was him giving me his G.I. Joe toys and wrestling around together. A lot had happened in three and a half years and going to visit him at Leavenworth came with some mixed feelings. I was filled with excitement to see him again and I also felt sad that he was in prison.
We moved from Germany to Bellevue, NE in 1991 when I was between 8th and 9th Grade, I was fourteen years old. My mom, dad, sister and I drove to Leavenworth, KS from Bellevue, NE. It was a long drive through the country.
Arriving at Leavenworth was like any base or post. The streets were clean, the buildings old, but tidy. The entire place looked well groomed and disciplined. We drove down a long street to the Disciplinary Barracks. It was a very large brick building and there were numerous security measures. Before leaving the car, my father made sure that we didn’t bring any items that would bar us from entry, contraband, knives, etc. We were filled with anticipation of being reunited with David again after so many years.
We entered the building and received a briefing from a soldier on conduct, items that were prohibited and appropriate actions. We entered through one gate and the next gate didn’t open until the first closed. I remember that vividly because the doors were about a foot thick and very secure. I don’t think anyone could get through those gates. We entered through another series of secure doors and after going through the gates, we entered into the visitation room. Once in the room we waited for David.
When he came in it was a joyous occasion, and we all hugged and enjoyed being together again. I remembered how we all did things as a family and was happy, yet still sad that David was in this place. I was sad that my other brother Darren couldn’t be there also. I’m sure I shed a tear, but I was trying to remain “Hard” in such places like this.
After the reunion we talked for a while. We asked what everyone was in for and what the conditions were like. I remember there was a snack vending machine in the room and I would get donut sticks and coffee. I don’t know how long it was but it seemed too short and when it was time to leave, we wanted David to come with us very badly. That was probably the hardest part. Leaving, seeing him in his brown Leavenworth shirt and pants walking back through the door he came through was heart wrenching.
Some of the memories I have of visiting David at Leavenworth are a mixture of all the visits. I was sixteen at the time. I remember being so excited to finally see my big brother. I was also a little apprehensive of what he’d be like after three years and all he’d been through. The drive from our home to Leavenworth was three hours so I was well equipped with my Scorpions cassette tape and my Sony Walkman.
When we finally arrived at Leavenworth my Mom, Dad, little brother Daniel and I went inside. It was big brick building with several security checkpoints. We were told what we could and couldn’t do and low and behold, I was told I couldn’t wear the outfit I had on. I was wearing shorts and that was forbidden. So we had to leave, go to the Post Exchange and buy me a new outfit.
We went through all the security checkpoints and briefings one more time and we were finally in. We walked into a room that had tables and chairs spread out and other inmates with visitors. We picked a table and waited.
Finally my big brother walked in and we all instantly started crying and hugging.
David was in a brown button up shirt and matching brown pants and he had muscles. I couldn’t believe it he looked great and healthy. We didn’t have a lot of time left to visit, so we asked a lot of questions about how he was doing, what it was like living in prison and what all the others around us were in for.
Daniel and I got drinks and snacks from the vending machine. If I remember correctly, we ended our morning visit, left to eat lunch and came back for an afternoon visit. When it was time to leave and head home it was the hardest thing to do. We didn’t want to leave David there. Mom was having a hard time leaving and Dad was trying to keep it positive. We told David how much we loved him and how we couldn’t wait to come back and see him again.
We watched him walk away into another room and when that door closed we left. We visited several more times. Then David was moved to a minimum security facility where we had more time to visit. I was even able to bring some of my friends with me. All of my visits with David helped us to develop an awesome friendship and he became someone I looked up to.
My Family Came To Visit Me (Click To Tweet)