Carpenter, soldier, disciple of Christ.
I’d like to start by thanking you all for taking the time to hear my testimony. Just as it can be difficult to tell, I know my story may be hard for some to hear or even accept. My only hope is that by giving this testimony and allowing people to make up their own minds, I can reach a few in need of salvation and peace in their lives. My story is one of loss and gain, war and peace, denial and faith. It’s a story of hate and despair, but most of all, it’s a story about Love.
Before I even sat down to write this, I prayed to God for guidance and the words I need to do it justice and not sound like I was the focus of this story. Even though this is my story and my testimony this isn’t about me at all. I’d like to begin with some history and a bit about me. I don’t like to dwell or focus too much on the past anymore, but to properly tell the story of how I was saved, a little background is necessary.
From childhood to middle school my story is one of general “normalness”. I was raised in a loving home by my mother and stepfather with my sister, stepsister, and stepbrother. Though my parents had gone through some tough times, we never lacked the things we needed. My mom always had honest, encouraging words. My dad was strict, but I knew it was because he honestly cared and loved us. I got along fine with my siblings even though I was a “brat” and sometimes picked on my sister (who has since forgiven me). When our house burnt to the ground the summer after my junior year of high school, it was my sister who took me in and gave me a place to live, and for that I’m forever grateful.
My high school experience was, I’m sorry to say, riddled with disciplinary actions and lack of respect for authority. I made a few mistakes, but all-in-all graduated proudly and never looked back at the bullying and meanness I experienced. Like most teenagers, I went to parties where I drank too much, got into fights, experimented with drugs, and didn’t have much self-discipline. Without a place to call my own and no real vision of the future, I decided to join the military. I wanted to gain discipline, education and focus while being able to travel and experience the world. I got what I wanted.
The Army made me appreciate authority, self-discipline, and teamwork. I was fortunate to get a perfect score on my ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery), a group of tests designed to help place new recruits into the proper profession or MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). With said score I was able to basically “choose” any one of the many professions offered by the Army. I became a 31U (thirty-one uniform, A.K.A. – Signal Support Systems Specialist), because they told me it would deal with communications equipment and computer technology used by the military, and I loved working with computers.
Basic training came and went like summer at camp. I enjoyed every minute of it, even though some of the running was difficult due to a tumor I had growing on my tibia, near my knee, that I later had surgically removed (a story worthy of it’s own post…). After basic training was AIT (Advanced Individual Training), where I excelled beyond even my own imagination. I graduated with distinguished honors, something that gave me the confidence I had previously lacked when I hadn’t been applying myself properly. With this new sense of confidence and self-worth the military life came easy to me. I felt at home with my new family of brothers and sisters, all of whom I would have given my life for.
Directly after learning my chosen profession, I was shipped off to Korea, my station of choice when asked where I’d like to serve. In Korea life was amazing, both at work and at play. We had so much to learn and became a part of the local culture. I loved to go hiking up the tallest mountains and visit the Buddhist temples, the ancient relics of the long history of Korea’s past. We also partied like there was no tomorrow. We would joke about how the Army made us some of the “most physically fit alcoholics in the world”. We drank. A lot. It wasn’t out of despair or lack of anything better to do, it was just the Army culture some of us had embraced fully. Looking back at those times I can honestly say that even though I wasn’t living the most respectable life, I have no regrets about that time of my life.
About halfway through my one-year tour in Korea, my country back home was attacked and threatened by terrorist forces. Our training kicked in and my camp (base) was on lockdown for over 45 days. We were trained for this exact situation, so even though it was difficult and stressful at times, it never became overwhelming. I thrived in the intense situations where split-second decisions meant life or death. I came back from Korea with an even heightened sense of self-worth and confidence that made it seem like nothing, short of death, could get in my way.
I was stationed at Fort Sill, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, after my oversees tour. I instantly made friends with my fellow soldiers, and we became close like a family. They were my brothers and my sisters-in-arms, of whom I would have gladly and without hesitation given my life for in any situation. We created bonds that couldn’t be broken. A lot happened in a short time, when suddenly, my unit was one called to prepare to join forces in a far away country and go to war. At the time, I was dating a girl who had become like a best friend, and I fell head-over-heals in love. We decided to get married just a few months before I was scheduled to ship off overseas to Iraq. Also, right before that time I had gone to a hospital in Seattle to have the previously mentioned tumor removed from my leg.
After a ton of training and preparations, my unit was shipped overseas to Operation Iraqi Freedom in March of 2003. We arrived in Kuwait and went through more training and waiting, before finally convoying north through Baghdad. For the first few months, life was rough. Everywhere we went was life threatening or so unfamiliar it seemed almost surreal. Not long after we had gotten there, two of our brothers-in-arms were cut off from a convoy and taken by the enemy forces. They gave the ultimate sacrifice through service to our country and were murdered by said forces before we were able to rescue them. This obviously hit our unit hard and from that point on we never fully recovered from the trauma.
I could tell the story about the kid who tried to trade his sister for some food and water, or about the desolation we saw that was left over from the previous wars (mainly Desert Storm). I could explain how we thought we were fighting the “good fight” to help protect our friends and family back home from this threat of so-called “weapons of mass destruction” (of which there were none to be found), or how we were delivering a people from a dictatorship that oppressed them and took everything from them. Sure, there was a lot of misinformation and lies told both to us and by us, but it wasn’t all terrible. We also gave water and power to schools and communities who had never experienced such things. We spent time rebuilding roads, infrastructure and buildings torn apart by war.
Through all of that, one of my fellow soldiers, my best friend, and the best man at my wedding, was overcome with a darkness that led to him taking his own life in the bunker we had built that was designed to save our lives from the many mortar shells fired at our forces nightly. We were attacked by so many mortars that our camp was known as Mortar-Ville. On top of that was the constant fear of death, the ugliness we saw and the inhumane way some people were being treated. It took its toll even on the strongest of us. My best friend, Dustin, was one on which that toll was too much to bear, so he paid with his life. It was the hardest thing I had ever dealt with, and my entire being was mutated by that war because in my head it led to nothing but death, destruction, and loss.
I ended up losing my faith in humanity, and I came home to a country I didn’t even recognize. We saw ribbons and magnets on vehicles, signs and billboards that congratulated us and thanked us for our service. We saw a people who had apparently set their differences aside and came together as one, all in the name of war and, ultimately, peace. But it seemed all too forced and ingenuine to those of us who knew the truth… that war, for whatever purpose, brings nothing but death and destruction. I felt like I couldn’t respect myself or the people we were supposedly protecting. I hated mankind for the things it allowed to happen.
I had my marriage annulled and I split from my wife due to reasons out of our control. The war was just as hard on her as it was on me, but I wasn’t in a place of understanding at the time that would have led to us staying together. I’d like to say I forgive her for the things that led to our divorce but, honestly, there is nothing to forgive because none of it was any fault of her own. I was honorably discharged from the Army shortly after that.
I lost touch with God and fell into a darkness so overwhelming, I struggled with wanting to live. I was sent to Veterans Hospitals on multiple occasions when my family noticed how dark I had gotten and were worried for my life. I was deceived by the Devil himself when I read a little black book called, “The Satanic Bible” by Anton Szandor LaVey. In my darkness those words made sense to me, and I became a Satanist. I worshipped myself, material things and money. I didn’t care what happened to other people and I honestly wished death upon the entire world. I started doing hard drugs like heroine and methamphetamines, but alcohol was my main poison. They took precedence even over my family and friends. And in one of my darker hours, it was my family who were there for me and had me entered into a local rehab center.
While I was at said rehab center, my mind was on the afterlife and what would happen when I die. Nothing seemed to be working so I gave up the “self” I had grown so accustomed to following and decided to ask God for answers. The next day after the morning meeting I was approached by a lady in the group who I had barely talked to, and really, didn’t even know yet. She handed me a book and told me she didn’t know why, but that she knew I needed to read it. That book spoke to me as if it were God speaking.
From that day forward I started to read the Holy Bible and couldn’t get enough of it. The Bible spoke multitudes to me and has become my guide to life. By learning through the Word of God the things I needed to do to become the person I so desperately strived to be, my life began to take new direction as I accepted Jesus as my Savior, believed that through His Life, death and Resurrection all are saved and that by asking with faith and the right intentions that God would answer my prayers.
I now know that God will always uphold his promises, give everything I need even if it’s not what I want, and He will always be there for me whenever I find it hard to understand the turmoil and tribulations of this life. Don’t get me wrong, life can still be difficult and throw some things my way that are hard to understand the reasons for, but with God and Jesus (the Word of God) as my rock to always lean on in times of need, I will never again feel helpless or want for anything. God provides Life, Love, Freedom, and Peace that can overcome any obstacle or hardship we face.
I can honestly say that I have Love for all of humanity and peoples because God has shown me how. I wouldn’t have been able to get to this point if I hadn’t studied my Bible and listened to the Words being said to me. My hope in writing this testimony is to help even one person who has gotten to a point where its hard to love or even live, and the best advice I can give them is to read it for themselves, because the Bible really does speak to people. God wants us to be happy and have a fruitful relationship with him, but that starts with us accepting some facts that may seem hard to understand at first but will continually get easier and easier over time through the study, meditation on and finally following His Word. I thank God daily now for the triumph over my life, and for showing me the truth in his unconditional LOVE.
Thank God for my Family (thank you Mom and Dad for always being there for me), Jesus, and Holy Spirit. Thank you for listening to my testimony. God Bless you all and I LOVE YOU!
Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.John 1 49