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Chapter Three

The time for the District Assembly came, and
Linnie and I were baptized. The Congregation
Overseer said it was permissible for me to go ahead
with my baptism, inasmuch as I had made a formal
written request to be discharged from the military.
Una was very happy and elated and told us how
gratifying it was for her to have brought us into "the
Truth." We were very fond of Una and since Linnie
and I were both so far away from our own families, it
was natural for us to feel very close to this maternal
woman who had befriended us. Una advised us, now
that we had been baptized and were members of the
organization, it wouldn't be necessary to continue
our weekly Bible study with her. She informed us
that now we should be trying to cultivate our own
Bible study to bring others into "the Truth." This
didn't come as too much of a surprise, but we still
felt like the mother bird was kicking us, her young
fledglings, out of the nest, and it gave us both an
insecure feeling. We had come to depend on Una as
our spiritual guide and mentor. Now it seemed we
were on our own. However, we didn't realize just
how much alone we really were until that fateful day
when I received the reply to my request to be dis
charged from the Navy.

The Chief of Naval Operations' reply was very brief
and to the point. It simply directed that I be honor
ably discharged immediately, from the U.S. Naval
Service, with all veterans' benefits in tact. As I read
the letter, I didn't know whether to be happy or to
cry. However, my supervisor didn't have any such
mixed emotions. The Chief Personnelman very an
noyingly related that he just couldn't believe that
they would give me an "Honorable Discharge" and
was really surprised that the Chief of Naval Opera
tions hadn't ordered me to be court-martialed. My
supervisor further asserted that he was going to
"check it out" with our Commanding Officer before he
started processing me for separation. A short time
later my disgruntled supervisor returned and very
disappointedly advised me to report back for duty at
0800 hours the following day, and he would have my
discharge papers ready.

I was in shock as I drove home from the base that
evening. Everything was happening so quickly. I
had completed six years of service toward my retire
ment and I was a Second Class Petty Officer (E-5),
making a comparatively livable salary, not to men
tion the fringe benefits: medical care, commissary
privileges, longevity pay, family allotment pay, etc.
All of that would be gone tomorrow morning. Now I
had to figure out what I was going to do for a living. I
had a wife and two small children who were depend
ing on me to take care of them. The Navy had
trained me to do clerical work, teaching me how to
use various office machines, and I could type -- not
exactly what you would call "high paying skills" in
the civilian labor market. Also, I had heard that jobs
were scarce in Florida, and I began to wonder now
just how I was going to make those "easy monthly
payments" on our house, car and furniture.

When I arrived home I broke the good news to my
wife. Effective tomorrow morning, I would no longer
be a member of the U.S. military, which the Wit
nesses had taught us was in opposition to Jehovah
God. The bad news was that I would also no longer
be among the gainfully employed. Linnie's reaction
was also one of disbelief, that things were happening
so quickly. However, she encouraged me by reason
ing that, because it did happen so quickly and since I
was to be discharged honorably, with no time in the
brig, and had retained my veterans' benefits, surely
these were signs that God's will was being worked
out in our behalf.

The next morning I reported to the naval Air
Station, Personnel Office, promptly at 8:00 a.m. I
had brought all of my uniforms and other equipment
that I had been issued and was instructed to turn
them in to the Base Storekeeper. Upon returning to
the Personnel Office, I was handed my DD-214 Form
(Statement of Service), a set of Military Orders, and
an Honorable Discharge certificate signed by the
Commanding Officer. That was it. My military
career was over. I felt a deep sadness and apprehen
sion as I stopped at the gate and watched the Marine
guard motion me through for the very last time.

The next six weeks or so were spent pounding the
pavement and driving from place to place, filling out
applications and going to job interviews. I didn't
have much experience in job seeking, inasmuch as I
had been in the Navy since I was seventeen years
old, but I was learning fast. For example, I learned
not to make known the fact that I had been dis
charged from the Navy as a conscientious objector.
The first interview that I mentioned this, the inter
viewer gave me a very disapproving look and advised,
"We'll call you." He acted as though I had just
divulged to him that I was a Russian spy. Needless
to say, he didn't call. After that, when inquiry was
made concerning my military record, I simply told
them that I had been discharged honorably.

I also found out that employers didn't like to hire
high school dropouts. At one job I applied for with
the railroad, I had to wait for an interview for almost
three hours. When I finally got in to see the man
doing the hiring, he looked at the application I had
laboriously filled out and stated that he couldn't use
me because I hadn't finished high school. I vigorous
ly protested that I had an equivalency certificate. I
informed the interviewer that I had received a high
school level GED while in the military. Apparently
the interviewer wasn't impressed. He simply
shrugged and stated, "That isn't good enough," and
that was the end of the interview.

All the time that I was looking for a job, we were
still faithfully attending the five weekly meetings and
going out in service as much as possible. The only
time we saw our good friend and mentor Una was at
the Kingdom Hall meetings, and occasionally Linnie
would accompany her out in service. Everyone at the
Kingdom Hall was friendly enough and sometimes
they would even inquire as to how I was progressing
in looking for a job. However, that was about the
extent of their concern for us. No one came to visit
us at our home or offered us assistance of any kind.
I was beginning to feel abandoned by God and the
organization, and my previously felt enthusiasm for
"the Truth" was starting to fade.

My perseverance in job hunting eventually paid off
and I landed a job with Ryder Truck Lines as a clerk
and teletype operator. I don't remember what the job
paid. However, I do remember that it was con
siderably less than what I was earning in the Navy.
After several more months, due to my period of
unemployment, coupled with working at a job that
paid less, we were starting to get behind on our
house, car and other financial commitments. This
development necessitated my getting an additional
job, working nights and weekends as a store clerk for
Seven Eleven Markets, in an effort to try to catch up
and to "make ends meet." I was working so many
hours now, I no longer had time to attend the
meetings and go out in service. I wasn't able to do
anything except work, eat, sleep, and become more
and more disillusioned and depressed.
When it became apparent that I wasn't attending
the meetings, the Congregation Overseer inquired of
my wife if there was a problem. Linnie explained to
the Overseer that we were having financial difficulties
and I was required to work seven days a week at two
different jobs, in an effort to take care of our
obligations. The Overseer advised my wife that he
would talk to me concerning the situation very soon,
explaining the seriousness of missing the meetings
and my "spiritual food."

The next afternoon, as I was preparing to go to my
second job at the Seven Eleven Market, the Overseer
knocked on our front door. I invited him in and
apologized that I was running late for my second job
and that I couldn't talk very long. The Overseer
informed me that he understood and advised me that
he wouldn't keep me. The Overseer then handed me
a fifty dollar bill and related to me that he was sorry
that my family and I were having such a difficult
time. However, I would just have to do whatever was
necessary in an effort to get back to attending the
weekly meetings on a regular basis. After all, he
explained, quoting from the Scripture, "What would
it profit a man if he were to gain the whole world and
forfeit his life?" I interpreted this to mean, What
good would my jobs do me, if I were destroyed at
"Armageddon"? I graciously thanked the Overseer
for the fifty dollars and very timidly informed him
that I would do the best that I could.

The following day at work, came the proverbial
straw that broke the camel's back. Around lunch
time I was told by my supervisor at Ryder Truck
Lines that there was a man in the front office who
wanted to see me. When I went to the front office I
was confronted by an abrasive, rather muscularly
built young man who informed me that he was from
the finance company where I had financed our 1958
Volkswagon automobile. The young man reminded
me that I was two payments in arrears on my
account and that he had instructions to repossess
my car. The man further stated, in a rather cavalier
manner, that we could do it the easy way or the hard
way, indicating that if I didn't give him the keys, he
would "hot wire" the car. I was stunned and
extremely embarrassed. Nothing like that had ever
happened to me before. In a clumsy attempt to act
nonchalant in front of the office secretary, who was
taking it all in, I removed the car keys from my
pocket and tossed them to the man and told him,
"You might as well do it the easy way."

I had to take a cab home that evening after work.
When I arrived and explained the humiliating way
that we had lost our car, our only means of transpor
tation, I also informed my wife that I just didn't feel
like we could "make it" here in Florida. I had talked
to my mother and stepfather, who lived in Taylor,
Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, and they had
consented to our staying with them for a while -- until
I could find work and get us back on our feet
financially. I felt that there were more numerous and
higher paying jobs to be had up North. My wife was
devastated and very unhappy at the prospect of
giving up the only house that we had ever
purchased. Linnie asked, "What are we going to do
about the house and furniture?" I informed her that
our credit was already ruined, due to our falling
behind on all our payments, and inasmuch as the
finance company had just repossessed our auto
mobile, we might as well let our creditors repossess
the house and furniture as well.

However, what I didn't tell my wife was, in addition
to trying to better ourselves financially by moving to
Michigan, I was also trying to distance myself from
the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses. I had come
to the realization that I just couldn't live up to the
demands that they had imposed on me and my
family, and I was beginning to resent the fact that I
had to give up my career in the Navy. I also blamed
the Witnesses for the financial problems we were
having and the humiliation that we were suffering as
a result. I just wanted back the peace of mind and
security that we once had, before we became involved
with Jehovah's Witnesses. However, I still believed
that the Witnesses were God's people and the
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was God's sole
channel of communication here on earth, just as
they had taught us. At the time, I had no reason to
believe otherwise. I just felt that I was weak and
inadequate and as a result, I would surely be
destroyed at "Armageddon."

After the embarrassing day that my car was re
possessed, I never went back to work at Ryder Truck
Lines. I resigned by telephone and asked that my
final pay check be sent to my Mother's address in
Michigan. I called the Federal Housing Administra
tion, where our house was financed, and informed
them that we would be moving out of state and we
would have to let the house be voluntarily
repossessed. I then called the loan company that
held the lien on our furniture and informed them
that we couldn't pay for it and they should come and
pick it up. Surprisingly, within just a few days, all of
our affairs were settled and we packed up what few
possessions remained and shipped them via rail to
Taylor, Michigan.

Prior to our departure for the railroad station to
begin our long journey north, Una and the Congrega
tion Overseer came to our house to bid us farewell.
Una hugged us and our baby boys and told my wife
to be sure to get started back to the Kingdom Hall,
just as soon as we got settled in Michigan. The
Congregation Overseer shook our hands and very
sarcastically informed my wife that if he had known
we were going to leave, he wouldn't have given us the
fifty bucks.

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