Going Home For Good
On August 25, 1992 my last day at Fort Leavenworth, it was hard to stay focused on anything. The anticipation of waiting for my family to take me home, was too intense. They were supposed to come early which meant I wouldn’t have to wait too long.
Luckily, there wasn’t much to do as far as gathering all my personal belongings. Over the past few months, I had been ordering extra supplies like soap and shampoo so that I wouldn’t have to buy them when I got out. About a six months’ supply is what I had stockpiled. But that still didn’t amount to very much. I was given an Army duffel bag to put everything in and those things can hold a lot.
After I packed up all of the stuff I wanted to take with me, I put all of my LPU uniforms in a bag to turn in. It was going to feel good to get rid of those for good. I had already changed into the clothes that my family sent for me to wear home. Wearing these clothes made me stand out in the crowd of blue clad inmates in the building. I was okay with that. You couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face if you tried.
I never really got close to very many people in prison because, I learned quickly that no one is to be trusted. There were a handful of guys that I felt that were okay. Because I had testified against another inmate before coming here, there were a lot of people who didn’t trust me either. So, before I left the building, I made rounds to the people I wanted to say goodbye to. There were no promises of keeping in touch because I knew I would never see any of these guys again. For the most part, we all wanted to move on and forget about this place. But, I didn’t feel right not saying goodbye.
Having made it to the LPU, I feel like I was more prepared to leave. There was so much more independence and self-reliance. Most of us felt more human than inmate while serving our time out here. If I had to leave from inside the walls, I feel like the transition to civilian life would have been harder. Also having the opportunity to visit my family for seven days on temporary home parole, made it feel like I was just going back home.
As I headed down the hall towards the staircase that led to the building exit, I turned around and took one last look. I could see the excitement in some of the guys faces. Maybe my leaving gave them hope that it would be their turn soon? At the same time I could see the reality in their looks, that it would not be them today.
Making my way to the administration building, I saw a few other guys that I knew and said my goodbyes. Once I was inside, I sat down and waited for my family to arrive. It wouldn’t be long, but I was early because I was so ready to go. When I saw my dad’s car, I jumped up, grabbed my bag and headed over to the desk Sergeant to sign out. For the last time, I signed my name on the line “Out”.
Everyone was pretty excited to see me and I was ecstatic to see them. There was no need to hang out in the parking lot, because we would have three hours in the car on the trip back to Omaha. So I blurted out, “Let’s get the heck out of here.” On my prompt, everyone got back in the car and we backed out of the parking stall.
As we left the LPU, I didn’t look back. And for the final time, we passed the USDB on the road that would take us off Post. I tried not to pay attention to it as we drove by, but I found myself glancing in its direction. The Castle was impossible to miss and it commands respect from anyone who looks at it. I was so glad that it would be final view.
I was going back home, but I wasn’t just going back home. Being on parole meant that I had to keep myself in line. Maybe I was being overconfident or maybe I just really didn’t want to come back, but I just wasn’t worried about messing up again.
Three years was a long time to sit and think about what I had done, who I was. A nineteen year old kid running from the Army, strung out and selling drugs. Medicating myself to escape from my own skin. Ready to die than to be captured. Disregard for anyone but myself. Selfish and immature.
Three years was long enough for me to grow up. Just one month shy of turning twenty-three years old, I was a different man. Having learned things the hard way, there wasn’t any room in my life for the things that brought me here. I was prepared to be an asset to society instead of a liability. Realizing the importance of my family as well as the love and support they gave me was enough to get me through this. But mostly the revelation that my God had forgiven me and that in His eyes, I was clean. Clean from drugs and clean from the bondage of sin.
John 8:36 (NLT) So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.