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Chapter Two

Sunday morning, promptly at 9:30 a.m., Una
pulled into our driveway in her ancient and
dilapidated Ford. The first meeting, the Public Talk,
started at 10:00 a.m. and it was decided that we
would all ride in Una's car for our very first visit to
the Kingdom Hall. It was especially difficult for my
wife, getting herself and two small children ready for
the occasion, and Linnie and I were both
apprehensive about meeting a lot of new people.

After loading ourselves and the babies into Una's
compact automobile the drive to the Kingdom Hall
only took a few minutes. Una wanted us to get there
early so she could introduce us to everyone.

The Kingdom Hall was a very unpretentious
building, plain looking in fact, located at the end of a
dead end street. It was not like any church or
Synagogue that I had ever seen, and there was really
nothing to indicate that it was a place of worship,
except the large sign near the entrance that said,
"Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses." I used to
think that all Christian congregations exhibited a
cross on their building or place of meeting. However,
Una had explained to us in our studies that the cross
was a pagan symbol that came into use by the
churches when Satan the Devil seized authority over
them. Una also informed us that Jesus Christ had
been "impaled" on an upright "torture stake," without
a cross beam. As we entered the building, Una was
busy introducing us to almost everyone there. I
thought it amazing that Una knew so many of the
people in attendance, and I wondered how I was
going to remember all of their names.

Everyone there was very neatly dressed and well
groomed. The men and boys were almost all wearing
suits and ties, and I felt slightly conspicuous in my
casual slacks and sport shirt. I determined then,
that if I wanted to fit in I would have to buy myself a
suit at the earliest opportunity.

Everyone was extremely friendly and courteous
and it seemed to me that everyone had a smile on
their face. I remember thinking, "What a happy
looking bunch of people!" It wasn't long until a voice
boomed over the public address system and stated,
"Brothers and sisters, it's time to find a seat and
begin the meeting." After just several minutes,
everyone had been seated and it became very quiet.

The speaker was introduced and began his talk.
There were approximately one hundred people in
attendance and they all appeared to be paying close
attention to what the speaker on the platform was
saying. However, at this point I was more engrossed
in looking over the inside of the Kingdom Hall
building and the people sitting around me.

The speaker didn't sound anything like the
preachers that I had heard the few times that I had
been in church when I was a youngster. The speaker
was very businesslike and well polished and you
could tell that he had some kind of formal training in
public speaking. After approximately forty-five
minutes, the discourse was concluded and everyone
applauded. The applause took me by surprise and
somehow it didn't seem appropriate in a place of
worship. However, I joined in, since it was apparent
ly the accepted thing to do.

The speaker then announced that there would be a
ten minute intermission before the next meeting
began, and he encouraged everyone to stay for the
Watchtower Study. Apparently this break was to give
people the opportunity to go the rest rooms and to
stretch their legs. I excused myself and went outside
and lit up a cigarette, along with a number of other
men. It seemed like no time at all that I heard
someone announcing over the public address system
for everyone to take their seats, as the Watchtower
Study was due to begin. After the Watchtower Study
was finished and everyone dismissed, Una introduced
us to the "Literature Servant," so we would
know whom to obtain the Society's magazines, books
and tracts from when we started going out in service
on our own. Una also showed us how to fill out the
Monthly Activity Report form that everyone had to
turn in at the end of each month.

From that point on, my family and I started
attending the five required meetings a week on a
regular basis. We discovered that it wasn't easy
being one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Linnie concluded
that attending the meetings, going out in service,
taking care of two small children and a husband, not
to mention cooking, cleaning and taking care of a
household was no small task. I found it very difficult
as well. However, we were determined to be loyal to
Jehovah and his organization, so we continued to
endure.

After about six months of diligent study with Una,
sometimes twice a week, in addition to all the other
activities and meetings, it was decided that we
should be baptized. Una advised us there was a
District Assembly of Jehovah's Witnesses that was
being held at one of the sports arenas in Jacksonville
in a week or so, and she felt that we were ready for
baptism. Linnie and I were both rather elated at the
prospect. Baptism to us meant, among other things,
that we would be full fledged members of the
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Jehovah's
Witnesses; we would be God's people and perhaps
deemed worthy of our family being spared at
Armageddon. By this time, we were well aware that
our salvation hinged on our faithful obedience to the
Watchtower organization. We had been taught that
after baptism we would be required to continue
faithfully attending all of the meetings each week,
going out in service from door to door as much as
possible and placing the Society's literature and
soliciting donations. We would also be expected to
start Bible studies with interested persons, in hopes
of bringing them into the organization, and keeping
abreast of current teachings through our own
personal study. This would be a formidable task for
anyone. However, I was soon to find out that I had
an even greater challenge ahead of me that was
destined to change the course of our lives forever.

Jehovah's Witnesses had taught us that the
military establishments of all the earthly govern
ments would be in opposition to Jehovah and would
be completely annihilated at the Battle of Armaged
don, when it occurred. As a result, Jehovah's
Witnesses were conscientious objectors, refusing to
be in the military or even perform alternative service.
We had been told that some of the brothers had gone
to prison, rather than serve.

Then there was the dilemma of saluting the flag.
The Witnesses had taught us that saluting your
country's flag was an idolatrous act, and I had been
maneuvering now for several weeks, attempting to
avoid locations where I knew there was an American
flag. This was no easy task, when you consider that
I spent eight to twelve hours a day on a military
installation where there were a great number of
American flags. Also, needless to say, my superiors
were not very understanding as to why my Christian
conscience would not permit me to render the
required salute when the occasion called for it, and I
had already been taken to task several times for
failure to do so. In addition, as soon as it became
known to my comrades in arms, that I was refusing
to salute our country's flag, I became the object of a
campaign of patriotic harassment. Each day when I
reported for duty, I would find various pamphlets on
the history of the American flag, all over my desk.
When I went home in the evening I would find more
pamphlets and pictures of American flags all over my
car. Also, people at work whom I once considered
friendly and took coffee breaks with, would no longer
speak, and they made it abundantly clear that they
didn't want to associate with me.

I was feeling totally ostracized and rejected by my
peers. When I talked to Una and the Congregation
Overseer about the situation, they explained that this
always happened to true followers of Jehovah. They
showed me scriptures in the Bible where Jesus said
that his followers would be persecuted, just as he
had been. This persecution I was suffering further
assured me that the Witnesses were truly God's
people, and it gave me the courage to do what I did
next.

I wrote a letter to the Chief of Naval Operations in
Washington, DC, via the proper chain of command,
requesting that I be discharged from the U.S. Naval
Service, due to my new found religious convictions. I
explained that I had come to believe that fighting
wars, which resulted in the killing of my fellow man,
was contrary to Bible principles and the teaching of
Jesus Christ. I further stated that my Christian
conscience would no longer permit me to be a
member of a military organization. The congregation
overseer wrote a letter in my behalf and I submitted
it, along with my request.

When I turned the letter in to my supervisor, he
read it and sneeringly stated, "You really don't think
this request will be approved, do you?" I advised him
that I didn't know if it would or not. However, to
satisfy my Christian conscience, I had to try. My
supervisor then informed me, "If it is approved, you'll
probably be given a ‘Bad Conduct' or ‘Dishonorable'
discharge. They may even give you some time in the
brig." Needless to say, these possible repercussions
pointed out by my supervisor, were not very
encouraging. However, I had done what I believed to
be right and what Jehovah and the organization had
inspired me to do. Whatever happened now, I would
just have to accept the consequences. I was told by
my supervisor that it would take several weeks to get
a reply to my request, so I resolved to wait.

A day or so later, as I was busily engaged in some
typing at my desk, the Chief Personnelman who was
my supervisor, called me over to his cubicle and
informed me the Base Chaplain wanted to see me in
his office. I got my hat and quickly walked the two
streets over to the building where the Chaplain's
Office was located. I had anticipated this happening.
The Witnesses had warned me that Satan the Devil
would try to keep me from leaving his domain. What
better way, than to have one of Christendom's
ministers of false religion try to talk me out of the
decision that I had made to get out of the military.

I was very nervous as I walked into the Chaplain's
Office and told the receptionist my rank and name
and that I had been ordered to report to the
Chaplain. The receptionist advised the chaplain over
the intercom that I was there, and he directed her to
show me into his office. As I entered, the Chaplain
was sitting in a large overstuffed chair behind the
desk, smoking a pipe. The aroma from the lit pipe
tobacco permeated the air, and he puffed several
times as I briskly walked to the front of his desk and
stood at attention. I informed the Chaplain of my
rank and name and that I had been ordered to report
to him. He advised me to stand at ease and directed
me to sit down in a chair across from his desk.

The Chaplain was a slender built man, probably
around forty years of age, starting to gray at the
temples, with a stern, "no nonsense" look about him.
I don't remember his name, but I do recall that he
held the rank of Lieutenant Commander. The
Chaplain informed me that he had been asked by my
commanding officer to talk with me about the letter I
had submitted, requesting to be discharged from the
Navy. The Chaplain began to ask me questions
about Jehovah's Witnesses and their beliefs and
wanted to know how long my family and I had been
associated with them. He also asked me numerous
questions about the Bible, in an obvious effort to test
my knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. I fully
expected the Chaplain to try to convince me that
what the Witnesses were teaching wasn't the truth
and hysterically denounce the organization in some
manner. Instead, the Chaplain very calmly asked
questions and took notes concerning the answers I
gave, occasionally taking a puff from his pipe.

After questioning me for what seemed to be an
eternity, but in reality was probably forty-five
minutes, the Chaplain very politely informed me that
that was all he needed from me and that I could
report back to work. As I walked back to my office, I
was slightly perplexed and disoriented by the
encounter that I had with the Chaplain. Surprising
ly, he didn't even try to talk me out of my course of
action, and never said a disparaging word about
Jehovah's Witnesses. I remember thinking, surely
Jehovah was watching over me.



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