Home for a Week
Once I received the news that I was approved to go home for a full week in April, I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. It was hard to contain the excitement.
Feeling like I wanted to tell everyone was my first reaction, but I didn’t want to rub salt in the wounds of other Trustees that had been denied a trip home. So, I tried to keep it to myself. There were a few that I shared the news with, because not telling anyone at all would have made me explode.
Spending the next month waiting would be very hard. Not counting down the days was the biggest challenge. If I could stay busy then it would be a little easier on me. That became my focus until the date arrived.
Before leaving, I had to be briefed on the protocol regarding Temporary Home Parole. There was a lot of talk about staying out of trouble, refraining from drugs and alcohol and various other common sense topics. I was also given an emergency contact number in the event of any situations.
The thing that was stressed the most was, “Make sure you come back on your return date.” Because I was a military inmate who was trained to kill, I would be considered armed and dangerous if I did not return. U.S. Marshals would immediately be dispatched to find, apprehend and return me to the Disciplinary Barracks.
There would be a Court-Martial for attempted escape. A guilty verdict would be imminent. My current sentence would stop, I would serve out my new one and then my current sentence would resume. All good time would be forfeited, custody would be reduced all the way back to Maximum, and the chance of ever getting parole would be slim to none. My next trip would be a very long stay in the hole or solitary confinement.
It crossed my mind that because I had gone AWOL twice, this might have been specific to me. However, it’s possible they told everyone the same thing. They asked me if I was crystal clear on this topic. Of course I said, “Yes.” There was no way that I planned on extending my stay.
The next month went by quicker than I thought. Before I knew it, April 14 1992 arrived and my family was on their way. After eating breakfast, I headed to the administration building to wait for them to arrive. When I saw them pull into the parking lot, I jumped up to meet them. Trustees were not allowed to walk through the front door without authorization or an escort so I stayed inside.
My parents, sister and youngest brother were all headed towards the building. They brought a set of my clothes with them. I had to change before I could leave. The Army didn’t want me going home in my prison uniform and neither did I. After I signed out, the desk Sergeant told me I was free to go.
Making my way to my parent’s car, I couldn’t move fast enough. After buckling myself into the back seat, I said, “Quick, get out of here, before they realize I’m gone.” My siblings looked worried for a second and then everyone laughed. However, as we pulled away from the LPU, I had a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. A feeling that I was not supposed to leave. It felt like I was doing something wrong and that they were going to come after me.
On the way out, we passed by The Castle. I could feel the darkness from that building and I was glad to be moving further away from it with each second. As we left post and got on the interstate, I had the same panic as before from moving so fast. For some reason, driving seemed so out of control. Everything blurred as we sped along and I hung on tight to my shoulder belt like my life depended on it. The trip was going to take about three hours and so it took a little while but I was finally able to adjust to the speed.
Somewhere between Leavenworth and Omaha, we decided to stop for lunch. They asked me what I was hungry for. Without hesitation I said, “Arby’s.” It had been awhile since I’d eaten any fast food and I planned on Arby’s being the first place. Walking into the restaurant, it felt like we entered a circus. There were so many bright colors, the screens behind the registers were all lit up and there were so many choices that it was overwhelming.
Getting to pick what I wanted was a bit of a challenge so I just went with a roast beef sandwich. It tasted so good. I’m not complaining, the food we ate in prison was very good. However, this was just different. Another strange feeling I had was that there was no one there to do a pat down. I half expected to assume the position and have someone check me for silverware.
After we ate, we got back on the road and headed the rest of the way to Omaha. Arriving in Bellevue, which is a suburb where Offut Air Force Base is located. My family lived in military housing. Once we got inside they showed me where I would be sleeping. They also showed me where all of my personal belongings were. My sister, Dana, had called some of her friends over to see me. A couple of them I had already met when they traveled to LPU to visit. A guy named Mick, who I had not met before, said that if there was anything I needed, to let him know. We ended up becoming very good friends.
Dana said that if I wanted to drive, I could borrow her car. It was almost the same car that I used to own, so it felt very familiar. It had been about two and a half years since I had driven and so I was a little rusty. It was a little scary at first, but everything came back pretty quickly. There may have been a few curb checks in the beginning. It seemed as if the lack of control feeling that I kept getting was not as strong if I were behind the wheel instead of being a passenger.
Dana, Daniel and Mick came with me and gave me a tour of Bellevue. It was surreal, the freedom that I had. It was hard to process that I had just left prison just a few hours prior. Being able to go anywhere and do anything was strange. Not sure what I wanted to do, I just listened to everyone’s recommendation. The structure of Army prison seemed to reduce my ability to make decisions. It was hard to function outside of a routine.
The next few days consisted of day trips around Omaha, seeing all the sights and the favorite spots to hang out. We saw some movies, but I don’t remember which ones. We ate at Arby’s a few times and I tried some other places like Spaghetti Works. It had a massive salad bar and you could order unlimited refills on whatever pasta you wanted as well as sauce choice. This place was awesome. It was located downtown in the Old Market along with a bunch of shops.
There were a couple music shops that I checked out, Homer’s and Drastic Plastic. Both were well known for their extensive selections of older and obscure bands. Many of the Omaha youth culture hung out until late in the evening sitting outside on the steps of these establishments. It was where my brother Daniel liked to hang out and for some reason it seemed as if everyone knew him.
As each day passed, I felt less like an inmate and more like a regular person. Someone who was able to come and go as I pleased without having to ask anyone or sign in or out of anywhere. The week was a blur. Knowing that I only had seven days to stay, the time flew by very quickly and my return date moved closer and closer.
On April 20th, the day before I had to return, the outside temperature dropped. It was unseasonably cold. That evening, many of Dana and Daniel’s friends came over to my parents to hang out with us before I had to go back. We sat around the living room talking and watching movies because it was so cold outside. As I looked out the window, I noticed that snowflakes were falling from the sky. It was April and so I didn’t think much of it.
The snow probably wouldn’t stick anyways….