Oct 09

When David’s Dream Went AWOL

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DavidMike-AWOL-rrhGrowing up in a military family, the life of a soldier was David’s dream. His grandparents had served in WWII. His father was career Air Force, and his younger siblings would join the Air Force as well. But David’s aspirations awaited him in the Army.

Upon enlisting, David made his way to Airborne school in Georgia where he broke his leg. Unable to complete Airborne, he relocated to Ft. Polk, Louisiana, and soon set into depression. David then took a turn that separated his path from the honor of his family.

Before Ft. Polk, David never drank. Now, his new norm included alcohol, clubs and assorted combinations of drugs. Buying and selling large quantities of Ecstasy and LSD, he supported his habit.  Eventually he was caught, and agreed to work with US Army Authorities in exchange for a lower sentencing.

But David changed his mind.  Instead, he and a  fellow soldier went AWOL and fled to Houston. His Army unit was shipped to Panama for Operation Just Cause, which classified him now as a deserter–a charge that still carries the death penalty.

David continued selling drugs, traveling back to Ft. Polk to work old customers. At a local club one night, cops were on his trail.  He was arrested.  Offered the chance to return to his unit, he agreed to not flee.  But a week later, he ran to Dallas to stay with friends.  Unaware his parents had been praying, something in him told him to go back.  His time of running was over.

David was court-martialed, and sentenced to 5 years confinement at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. His military dream came crashing to an end.  Eventually, he progressed from solitary confinement to minimum security, where in the dining facility a pivotal moment occurred. A fellow inmate offered a hit of LSD, and without thinking twice, he took it. While acting far from normal, somehow he wasn’t caught.

It was a risky move. David was nearing his first parole board and was expecting a letter from his father to the board.  It came that night, and in the letter, his father stated that, “I would risk my job, reputation, and my life that my son would never do something like this again.”

As he came down from the drug, David realized the gravity of his mistakes. Not just then, but everything up until that point had been about him. His choices were not only following him, but affecting his entire family.  He had failed himself, his father, country, and God.

It was the last time he took drugs. And he was denied parole.

David eventually earned the privilege of community barracks which brought more freedom. He worked at the commissary bagging groceries for active and retired military and their families. He was paid four dollars a day.

During that time he listened to a radio broadcast by a man named Bob George called “People to People.” The message he kept hearing was that “Jesus forgave you 2000 years ago for everything you have ever done or will ever do.” This message of no more guilt and shame was all new to him. He had accepted Christ as a child, but never recalled hearing anything like this in the gospel message.

David learned that he could be released from a different kind of bondage. He used to think that God was mad and angry all the time. That around every corner he could be struck down for everything he had ever done. It was one of the most powerful lessons of his life, and every time he read the Bible, he saw the message there plain and clear.

Romans 8:1 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

David had a second parole board and this time made it.  He was released just before his 23rd birthday and was on parole for 2 years to complete his 5 year sentence.  He was dishonorably discharged from the Army.

In the years that followed, David felt major guilt and embarrassment. It came when wars transpired, and he felt it on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day too. But David knew the guilt wasn’t from God and that he’d been forgiven. As his faith grew, he came to grasp how grace replaces disgrace.

20 years later, David believes this is the kind of mess that God can use for good. For David knows that his life is not defined by his mistakes, foolish decisions, or his past.  It’s defined by grace, and that has given David a new and redeemed story to tell.

Read more about David’s life and military experience at www.dilemmamike.com.



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  • David Mike

    Thanks for your interest in my story and for your friendship. My hope is that God will use my mess for good.

    • David – Thank you so much for your willingness to share your story.

      • David Mike

        Thank you for reading it. Please share with anyone you believe needs to hear it.

    • It’s been a joy to get to know you, brother! I look forward to reading more in-depth glimpses of your story on your blog.

    • Julie Raymond

      David, thanks for letting Jeff share your story!! I know that God has used your mess for good. I was challenged to see God’s grace in a new way just reading it! Hope to meet you sometime if we ever make it back to Nebraska!!

      • David Mike

        Sounds like a plan. Thank you and your awesome husband!

  • Jeff – Thank you for what you are doing through your writing.

  • Melody MIKE

    I really enjoyed reading this and it was very well written! Thanks for your honesty and bravery in allowing others to see Jesus through your story, David!

    • David Mike

      Thanks for supporting me through reading and commenting. I appreciate it!