Part Eight-My Year of Hell
Things went well for me in Michigan the first few months. But in a matter of three weeks, my car had broken down, my money had dried up, and I had nowhere to go. In January 1996, I packed up my bags again, tucked my tail between my legs and moved back to North Carolina. I was angry, oh so angry. My mom found me crying in my bedroom and asked me what was wrong. I told her, “I don’t understand why God let me down.” I thought God had let me down and I lived that way for an entire year. I went back to smoking, drinking heavily, and was promiscuous. I was miserable. There is nothing more miserable than a Christian out of God’s will. I was searching for God, pretending like He wasn’t there, and searching even more. There were several times when God was there and trying to reveal Him. After eight jobs in nine months, I decided I needed a change. I did the dumbest thing I could have done. I joined the Army.
My reasoning was that I needed money for school and I needed stability. Well, I got one of those at least. I was met head on with one of my biggest fears: authority. To watch a drill sergeant scream at someone is one thing. To have him in your face screaming at you is quite another. You smell his breath and you feel so much fear. It only took one day for me to figure out that I was in hell.
I was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia for basic training. It lasted thirteen weeks and it began in mid-August. Mid-August in Georgia is unbearably hot. I lot about fifteen pounds in the first two weeks I was there. To say that I did not make the best soldier is quite an understatement. I was horrible. I did manage to pass my physical tests, but mentally, I was near the brink. After hiking a long distance, I complained to the drill sergeant that I was experiencing a great amount of foot pain. It turns out, I had a stress fracture under the fourth toe of my left foot. A few weeks later, after recovering from that, I hyper extended a tendon in my left knee. I tried to make it physically, but I just could not. After falling out of my final fifteen-mile road march, I was told by the drill sergeant that I was going to be ELS’d. ELS stood for Entry Level Separation. They could do that under the circumstances of failure to soldeirize. I was told that I could wait three weeks to get examined by a doctor to see if I was eligible for any benefits or I could be gone in three days. I chose the latter and now I wish I had not. Every time my knee or my foot aches, it reminds me of whose I am.
My last night there, I grabbed my Bible and went out to the barrack steps to pray. I don’t remember what I read, I just remember that I prayed tearfully to God that He would take my back into His will. I returned once again to North Carolina in December 1996.