The day I had to return to prison, I woke up feeling ready. Going back was not something I wanted to do, but I was ready to complete my sentence. Ready to get it over with, especially because this taste of freedom had reminded me what I was missing. Looking out of the window I saw that the snow was still falling. There also was a small accumulation of snow on the ground but it didn’t amount to much and didn’t seem like anything to worry about.
My dad had planned to leave around lunch time so that we would have plenty of time to get back to the Disciplinary Barracks before the end of the day. Because it would be awhile before I would be back in Omaha, I requested one last trip to Arby’s before I left. After I ate my roast beef sandwich, I ordered another one to take with me for dinner.
We decided that we shouldn’t wait any longer to head back to Fort Leavenworth. The forecast was calling for more snow and we wanted to stay ahead of it. So, my parents, my two youngest siblings and I, got in the car and headed off towards Kansas. After about an hour in the car the snow started to fall harder. The wind created swirls of blowing snow as well as heavy drifts on to the road. It was piling up pretty quickly and visibility was reduced to the point where you could no longer see very far in front of the car. The only way to even see where to go was to follow the tracks made in the snow by previous vehicles.
Dotted along the sides of the interstate were car after car that had slid off the road and gotten stuck. There were times that I thought we were going to end up in the same predicament. In the back of my mind, I could hear the voice from my briefing explaining all the consequences of not making it back on my return date. There was no way to get in touch with any one and we were still somewhere between Nebraska and Kansas. We were all pretty worried that I would not make it back in time which would bring severe punishment. Would they take the weather into consideration? Since there was no way to find out, taking the risk was not worth it.
Knowing that he had to get me back, my dad plowed through as we continued to pass vehicle after vehicle that had not been fortunate enough to stay on the road. The trip took much longer than expected because we couldn’t drive very fast. But, the closer we got to our destination, the more the weather seemed to let up. With what I can only describe as divine intervention, we made it. Once we arrived at the LPU, it was as if nothing had ever happened. There wasn’t any snow, and the temperature was normal for April. It was the strangest situation.
My family dropped me off and I said my goodbyes. Saying farewell to my family was not hard, because I had just spent an entire week with them. It felt more like, see you soon than, good-bye. I told them that I would give them a call the next day to make sure they made it back to Omaha. As they left the parking lot and headed off, I turned around and walked back into the administration building. They briefly searched me for contraband, and told me to change back into my LPU blues.
The uniform felt comfortable, like an old friend. This was not my home but I had spent more time at the Disciplinary Barracks than I had at my first duty station at Fort Polk. It dawned on me that April was my two year anniversary since arriving at the DB. So I had been locked up for a total of two and a half years of my five year sentence. Knowing that I’d served half of my sentence meant that the possibility of making my next parole board was highly likely. This gave me the confidence that I would be getting out sooner than the full completion of my sentence. This made getting back into the routine of being in prison easier to get back into.
Back inside my building and in my area, some of my friends stopped by to visit and hear all about my experiences. Everyone was eager to hear what it was like on the outside. They wanted to know all the details. Trying to describe everything to the best of my ability while answering specific questions was a lot of fun. Even some of the guys I didn’t normally talk to came by to hear bits and pieces of my adventure. You could see their minds wander outside of the LPU to Omaha as I talked about all I had seen and done.
Someone asked what the food was like and I suddenly remembered I had the Arby’s sandwich in my bag. For some reason, the desk Sergeant either missed it in my shake down or completely overlooked it. Pulling it out of my bag, I said, “Who wants to share this with me?” Everyone’s eyes lit up and I tore that roast beef sandwich into a bunch of little pieces for everyone that was there. There was plenty of Arby’s sauce packets to go around. It was cold but not one person complained. It was a small pleasure, and I was glad that I could bring a little outside to my friends inside.
I watched everyone savor the one bite that they got. As the crowd dispersed, the only words that were uttered here and there were, Thank you. Some of them couldn’t even talk. It was as if they all had eaten a little slice of heaven. It wasn’t that the food was that good; it was the memory of a life before prison. A small portal to a day before the crime, the trials, the shackles and the bars.
No matter how much you moved up in custody, you were still not free. Who knew that one bite of a sandwich could taste like freedom? It was my pleasure to be able to share a part of that freedom with these men I’d come to call my friends. So, I had just been home for a week, I had made some friends happy, and I was gearing up for my next parole board.