Finally Gone and Free
Growing up is not fun when you’re the last one standing in the middle when they’re choosing teams. Not knowing how to play basketball is bad enough when you’re fifteen, but playing shirts and skins is a terror when you’re the pudgiest kid in gym class. He remembered the humiliation he felt when his first new bike was a girl’s model because his mom was afraid he’d get hurt on a boy’s bike. Danny didn’t enjoy much of anything back in his younger days.
It’s no wonder that he was so anxious when he was accepted into the Navy several months after high school graduation. His love of the sea made it his first choice. All Danny wanted to do was get away from home and the military made it affordable to do. The Navy also seemed like a good way to prevent being drafted into the Army and being sent to Nam.
That day at the train station as he said goodbye to his mom and dad, Danny felt his first taste of freedom. Freedom to do what? He wasn’t sure, but he thought that he was finally gone, and free.
Always the class clown, probably to get attention, Danny’s behavior went with him to Boot Camp. Unfortunately the Company Commander didn’t enjoy Danny’s sense of humor the way his classmates had. Laying on the asphalt lot that day with the Commander standing over him Danny was given an option. With the rifle butt inches from Danny’s head the Commander gave him two choices, “shape up or ship out.” Either from fear or wisdom, he soon made his decision. Danny began his new position as Squad Leader two weeks later. A job he did well, and for the first time Danny felt like a somebody, a leader.
Graduation day finally arrived. Danny basked in the pride that he felt leading his squad as their company marched past the reviewing stands. Having won the title of “Color Company” they proudly carried every competition flag they had won during their training. Finishing Boot Camp brought Danny a greater level of freedom.
Several months later while attending Naval Engineering School, Danny once again fell into his “class clown” behavior. Nights off in Chicago or Milwaukee took precedence over study and sleep. How he ever finished the school is anyone’s guess, but all Danny thought about was that he was finally gone, and free.
His first ship, his first cruise, his first liberty night in Naples, Italy found Danny drunk and on his way to becoming an alcoholic. Although he was a skilled leader aboard ship the bottle became his constant companion. It stayed his friend during his Navy days, and fourteen years into his marriage. Living the life he chose only served to reinforced Danny’s belief that he was finally gone, and free.
In the spring of “84” something happened to Danny that he could never have imagined in his wildest dreams. While watching TV one night he came across an “exposé on rock music.” Since music was a big part of his life he watched and listened closely. The program talked about “back-masking” and “subliminal messages” in the music. This certainly got Danny’s attention. When the Gospel was presented by the commentator after the program Danny understood and responded.
That night he met a man named Jesus. They quickly became dear friends and Danny has never been the same. No longer the class clown, no longer the alcoholic, no longer desiring to be finally gone, and free. Life and family had new meaning now. Danny became, with time, a better husband, father and friend. He ministered in his church and always looked for ways to help someone in need. For the first time in his life Danny was learning what it really meant to be free.
As life would have it Danny inevitably grew old and gray. One Day his Lord and Savior chose to bring Danny home to be with Him. Family and friends sadly missed him, but they were the only ones who suffered. Danny had never been happier in his entire life. After his first two seconds in heaven he knew without a doubt that he was truly, finally gone, and free.
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