Autobiography Outline

Jesse Ernest Simmons Jr


 Recent events in my life have led me to the point of wanting to share my entire life story with others.  While this story may be boring to some, I hope that the younger generations of my family, my grandchildren and great grandchildren find it fascinating and hopefully inspirational.  I love my life!  I would not trade it for anything in the world.

My love priorities:

  • God
  • Donna
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Career

The early years

 Before 1960 – I should insert the genealogy of my parents here . . . We came over on the Mayflower.  Paraguine

 Beginning the next 50 years

 Life begins

 1960 to 1966

I was born December 20, 1960.  As an adult, I cannot recall the first few years of my life.  All I can do is pass along the stories that I was told, share pictures that were snapped, and talk about the old silent 8mm movies taken of my family and me.  In those days, a mother had to stay in the hospital for a while, so on Christmas Eve; I was brought home and placed under the Christmas tree. 

One of my Mom's favorite stories she tells is of when Uncle Leo Workman stepped on me and broke my leg when I was an infant.  At a year old, I spent six months in a cast . . . more to follow . . .  (favorite stories?)

The historically important events during my first 10 years would define what life would be like, as I grew up.  While I was beginning to walk, talk, and learn the social skills of childhood, I was oblivious to major events that were taking place around me.  John F. Kennedy was elected President and assassinated a few years later, President Johnson plans a Great Society, and the Vietnam War escalates and causes a protest movement against the war.  There was the Civil Rights Movement, the change in culture and the creation of a new counterculture. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King was assassinated, and the Presidency of Richard Nixon which concluded in the 70s with his resignation in wake of the Watergate scandal. All these events were defining moments in American history and unknown to me. Repeated in line three.

Major Events of the 1960s


  • The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was founded.
  • The Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) is founded.
  • The Young American for Freedom issue the Sharon Statement???.
  • February 1 - 4 black college students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College sat down at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina and refused to leave, they are then allowed to stay at the counter, but are refused service. The sit-in captured the media attention and soon spread all over the south.
  • March 15 - The sit-ins spread to 15 cities in 5 southern states.
  • April 16-17 - Young black activists and students then go on to found the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). (Raleigh, N.C.) The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is founded at Shaw University, providing young blacks with a place in the civil rights movement. The SNCC later grows into a more radical organization, especially under the leadership of Stokely Carmichael, 1966 through 1967.
  • May 6 - President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1960.
  • Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative is published.
  • March-July - At Harvard University, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert begin experimenting with psychedelic drugs.
  • November - John F. Kennedy narrowly wins the Presidential election over Vice-President Richard Nixon, Kennedy is the first Catholic to ascend to the Presidency. Lyndon Baines Johnson is elected Vice-President.
  • December - the Food and Drug Administration approves the first birth control pill for sale.



  • March 1 President Kennedy initiates 17 billion dollar nuclear missile program, increases military aid to Indochina and announces the creation of the Peace Corps.
  • April 25 - the Unites States invades Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and the mission is a failure.
  • April 12 - Yuri Gagarin of the USSR becomes the first man in space.
  • May 4 - the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) begins sending student volunteers on bus trips to test the implementation of new laws prohibiting segregation in interstate travel facilities. One of the first two groups of "freedom riders," encounters its first problem two weeks later, when a mob in Alabama sets the riders' bus on fire. The program continues and by the end of the summer 1,000 volunteers, black and white, have participated. The Freedom Riders force integration of Interstate and Travel facilities in the South.
  • August 13 - East German border guards begin construction of Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall physically seperated Communist East Gernmany and Democratic West Germany.
  • Joseph Heller's Catch 22 is published.
  • September 15 - the United States starts underground nuclear testing.
  • October 6 - President Kennedy advises Americans to build fallout shelters.


  • SDS issues and adopts the Port Huron Statement.
  • February 16 - Boston SANE & fledgling SDS hold first anti-nuclear march on Washington with 4000-8000 protesters
  • The Supreme Court, in the case of Engel v. Viatle, rules aginst prayer in public schools.
  • John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth. Sept - Timothy Leary founds International Foundation for Internal Freedom (IFIF) to promote LSD research as well as publish The Psychedelic Review.
  • October 22 - Cuban Missile Crisis: Soviets establish missile bases in Cuba, Kennedy orders a naval blockade to divert any missiles from arriving in Cuba.
  • November - George C. Wallace is elected Governor of Alabama.
  • British pop group the Beatles attain their first number one recording on the British charts with Love Me Do.
  • Folk singer Bob Dylan releases his first album.


  • January - Alabama Governor Wallace's "Segregation Forever" speech is given at his inauguration.
  • The U.S. and U.S.S.R. sign a treaty banning any atmospheric nuclear tests.
  • The Battle of Ap Bac in South Vietnam
  • April 3 - SCLC and volunteers stage sit-ins and mass protests in Birmingham, Alabama.
  • April 12 - Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy are arrested and go to jail in Birmingham during the protests, King then writes his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
  • Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique is published.
  • June 11 - President Kennedy proposes the Civil Rights Bill.
  • June 12 - In Jackson,Mississippi, the state's NAACP field secretary, 37-year-old Medgar Evers is assassinated outside his home. Byron De La Beckwith is tried twice in 1964, both trials resulted in hung juries. Only thirty years later is he convicted for murdering Evers.
  • July 26-28 - Newport Folk Festival, includes popular folk singers Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs and Pete Seeger.
  • August 28 - The March for Jobs and Freedom or more commonly known as the March on Washington attracts over 200,000 people to Washington, D.C. With the people concentrated around the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. gives his I Have a Dream speech.
  • September 15 - Four Black girls are murdered attending Sunday school in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. A target because it was where there was regular civil rights meetings. As a result Riots erupt in Birmingham, and two more black youths are killed in the violence.
  • September 24 - Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is ratified by Senate.
  • September - Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and other Harvard alumni LSD researchers move to the Hitchcock's estate in Millbrook, New York to continue their research into psychedelics.
  • October 10 - Nuclear Test Ban Treaty takes effect.
  • Fall and assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem in Saigon, South Vietnam. This assassination was planned by the Kennedy Administration.
  • November 22 - President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald. Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as President on Air Force One with First Lady Jackie Kennedy present.
  • November 24 - President Johnson escalates American's military involvement in the Vietnam War.
  • November 29 - The Beatles release "I Want to Hold Your Hand," which becomes a huge hit and a success in America.


  • January 8 - President Johnson declares a "War on Poverty" in the State of the Union address thus initiating plans for his Great Society.
  • February 7 - The Beatles arrive in New York greeted by 10,000 screaming fans.
  • February 9 - The Beatles first appear on Ed Sullivan Show, performing with 74 million people watching them, the largest audience in the history of television.
  • Malcom X breaks from the Nation of Islam.
  • Congress passes the landmark Civil Rights Act.
  • Congress passes the Economic Opportunity Act initiating the war on poverty.
  • July 2 - President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964, making segregation in public facilities and discrimination in employment illegal.
  • The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gives President Johnson authority to prosecute an unlimited war in Vietnam unchecked by Congress.
  • Summer - Mississippi Summer Project: The Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), a network of civil rights groups including CORE and SNCC, launch a major effort to register black voters throughout the summer which becomes known as the Freedom Summer. It results in sending a group of delegates to the Democratic National Convention to protest and attempt to unseat the official all white Mississippi contingent.
  • July 18 - There is a Race riot in Harlem, NY
  • July 23 - Senate passes $947 million antipoverty bill as part of the Great Society
  • Free Speech Movement at the University of California in Berkley.
  • August 5 - Three civil rights volunteers working to register voters are murdered by southern whites. They first go missing on June 21, but only officially declared missing on August 5. The three voluteers were James E. Cheney, 21; Andrew Goodman, 21; and Michael Schwerner, 24. They been arrested arrested, incarcerated, and then released on speeding charges. Their murdered bodies are found after President Johnson sends military personnel to join the search party. It is later revealed that the police released the three men to the Ku Klux Klan who killed them.
  • August 20 - LBJ signs anti-poverty program part of his war on poverty and the Great Society.
  • August 28 - There are Race riots in Philadelphia
  • August 31 - President Johnson signs food stamp bill
  • November - President Johnson reelected in a landslide over Barry Goldwater, but conservatives take over the Republican Party and remain a force in the party.
  • Beatles first tour of the United States helps make them the most popular musical group in the English speaking world.
  • Nikita Khruschev toppled from power in the USSR
  • Cassius Clay wins heavyweight championship of the world and then announces he has joined the nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali
  • October 14 - Announced that Martin Luther King Jr. has won the the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • December 10- the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to King.


  • January 4 - President Johnson outlines his "Great Society"
  • February - Martin Luther King Jr. and 770 other protesters arrested in Selma, Alabama for picketing county courthouse to end discrim voting rights.
  • February 8 - U.S. starts bombing North Vietnam.
  • February 18 - Sect. of Defense Robert McNamara calls for nationwide network of bomb shelters.
  • February 21 - Malcom X is assassinated in New York City. Malcolm X was a black nationalist and founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity. It is believed the assailants are members of the Black Muslim faith, which Malcolm had recently abandoned.
  • March 3 - Owsley starts LSD factory, making large quantities of acid available for the first time.
  • March 6 - First American soldier officially sets foot on Vietnam battlefields, First U.S. combat troops begin fighting in South Vietnam.
  • March 7 - In Selma, Alabama, SCLC and SNCC lead marches for voting rights. Blacks begin a march to Montgomery in support of voting rights but are stopped at the Pettus Bridge by a police blockade. Fifty marchers are hospitalized after police use tear gas, whips, and clubs against them. The incident is dubbed "Bloody Sunday" by the media.
  • March 8 - 3,500 Marines land to protect Da Nang air base
  • March 16 - Police break-up a Civil Rights demonstration of 600 in Montgomery, Alabama
  • March 17 - 1,600 people demonstrate at Montgomery, Alabama courthouse
  • March 21 - Martin Luther King Jr. leads march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama joined by 25,000 marchers.
  • March 24 - SDS organizes first Vietnam War teach-in at Univ. of Michigan 3000 show up. Teach-ins against the war begin.
  • March 25 - Civil rights worker shot and killed by KKK in Alabama
  • March 28 - Martin Luther King calls for boycott of Alabama on TV
  • April - 25,000 U.S. troops stationed in Vietnam
  • April 17 - SDS leads first anti-Vietwar march in Washington. 25,000 attend including Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and Judy Collins In Washington, D.C., SDS stages the first large national demonstration against the war.
  • July 8 - Chicago school integration protests
  • July 25 - Dylan goes Rock at Newport Folk Festival
  • July 30 - LBJ signs Medicare bill
  • August 10 - Congress passes the Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier for Southern blacks to register to vote. Literacy tests and other such requirements that tended to restrict black voting become illegal.
  • Twenty thousand U.S. troops intervene in the Dominican Republic.
  • United Farm Workers Organizing Committee launches a strike against grape growers in California.
  • Congress passes Immigration Reform Act
  • August 11 - Insurrection in Watts section of Los Angeles Major race riot (6 days) in Watts, leaves 35 dead.
  • August 13 - National Guard enters the Watts riots in L.A. in an attempt to stop the riots.
  • August 31 - Burning draft cards becomes an illegal and punishable act. Burning draft cards had become a popular protest method against the war.
  • September 5 - San Francisco writer Michael Fallon applies the term "hippie" to the San Francisco counterculture in an article about the Blue Unicorn coffeehouse where LEMAR (Legalize Marijuana) & the Sexual Freedom League meet, and hippie houses.
  • October 16 - 100,000 anti-war protesters nationwide in 80 cities
  • November - Unsafe at Any Speed about the automobile industry's disregard for safety, by Ralph Nader is published.
  • December 25 - Timothy Leary arrested for Marijuana at the Mexican border


  • January 14 - March on Atlanta to protest ouster of Julian Bond
  • February 19 - Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin perform at the Fillmore
  • March 3 - GI Bill grants veterans rights to education, housing, health and jobs
  • March 11 - Timothy Leary sentenced in Texas to 30 years for trying to cross into Mexico with a small amount of marijuana
  • March 25 - Anti-Vietnam war protests in NY bring out 25,000 on 5th Ave. Other protests in 7 US cities and 7 foreign cities.
  • April - FBI releases file on LSD, the drug gets bad press.
  • April - 30 Mississippi blacks build tent city under President Johnson's window to protest housing conditions in their state
  • April 7 - Sandoz stops supplying LSD to the researchers
  • April 12 - NY Stock Exchange hit with anti-war leaflets
  • April 16 - Timothy Leary busted at Millbrook by G. Gordon Liddy & FBI for possession of marijuana
  • May 15 - There is an Antiwar demonstration in Washington D.C. with 10,000 protesters attending
  • August 18 - Quotations of Chairman Mao also called the the little red book is published in China. The Red Guard begins to wipe out western influence in China as part of the cultural revolution that is raging there.
  • September - Timothy Leary holds press conference at NY Advertising Club announcing formation of a psychedelic religion - League for Spiritual Discovery ("Turn on, tune in, drop out") & starts nightly presentations at the Village Theater.
  • November 5 - The Walk for Love and Peace and Freedom in New York City takes place with 10,000 participants.

General comments: would it be clearer and less wordy to say that those years were full of strife and cultural changes, to include the rise of the civil rights movement, Vietnam war, the shame brought to the White House with the Watergate scam etc, drugs and hippies and the Love culture. The history above is a distraction, its just too much information . Although impressive, it does not serve to express how these times were to affect your life. Just a thought

1967 to 1979

School was always boring to me.  I remember my teachers giving me these menial tasks that I could easily do, but after 20 or 30 minutes, I would get bored and put them away.  I wanted to do something else that was more interesting to me.  I always got in trouble for not finishing my work.  All of My report cards would say that all I wanted to do was daydream and waste time.

I hated reading aloud because it took too long.  I would stumble over the words and sometime get them backwards.  I also read phonetically so some of the words came out just as they were spelled and I would be laughed at by my classmates and scolded by the teacher.  I could read to myself and understand much faster than trying to read aloud.  Years later, I discovered that somehow I could just glance at a page and remember everything on it.  I have dyslexic tendencies but I am not dyslexic.  These tendencies have never been a problem although that is the reason I always like reading technical books, magazines, papers, and other material that  follows a specific chronological order.  I like to read from the back of the material to the front, but I don't transpose words and I read from left to right so I am not dyslexic.

I think you should check how you bounce back and forth in the tenses. Stay in the past tense when you speak of the past. This paragraph should focus on the early years and how you hated to read outloud . Talk more about your abilities or disabilities and the cruel things kids and teachers did. The self analysis stuff should come later.

It takes me forever to read a novel where I have to start from the front and work my way back.   (Present tense. Stick with the past tense when describing the early years.).

I loved drawing cars, army trucks, tanks, airplanes, and helicopters.  I loved things about the army and war, but I was mostly interested in aerodynamics.  I loved making paper airplanes. (I would get) and getting three or four different wooden flying models and modifying them from the parts of the different kits.  

The report cards tell the story. Well what did the report cards say???

Barron Elementary School (Principal:  Mr. Barron)

67-68 First Grade

68-69 Second Grade  Getting lost in Wythe, Helped dad build bedrooms in attic

96-70 Third Grade    Spanked by the principle – would not cry no matter how hard he tried to make me

Summer trip to Nags Heads

70-71 Forth Grade    School started Ferrango teaching process, self-paced work in plastic books with grease pencil – the teacher, Mrs. Mazi, accused me of cheating because I would finish each book too quickly

Summer trip to West Virginia staying with Brenda, going to the one room school with Ricky and Scotty

Help dad build den on back of house

71-72 Fifth Grade Summer trip to Nags Head, Atlantic City, Frontier City

Busted the front door with my butt, glass cut my leg, got 10 stitches and the scare to prove it

Christmas - the year I got my ten speed Bycycle!

72-73 Sixth Grade Caught a neighbors house on fire, blamed it on Bubba

Started attending Langley Baptist Church with Gary

Note from Aunt Wanda: I think that buried in this stuff you have some really good stories

I had very few friends (while I was growing up)when I grew up.  There was a group of us boys who had a lot in common. (who were they, what was in common??)  We loved to play war and fight battles in the woods at the end of our street.  We used homemade guns for a while but graduated to BB guns that Bubba snuck from his dad’s garage.  We played sports (football, baseball) in my front yard. 

childhood friends:

Roy (Bubba) Morris, Tony and Joey (the bratty little brother), Gary McBride, and Johnny (whom dad did not like because he was Japanese).  Later came Jimmy Sealy and Wayne.  Both of which were prone to suicide – Wayne Riggins succeeded in ‘83 using his brother-in-law’s 45.  Jim made the news a lot, especially when he jumped off the Hampton walkover bridge at the Aero Space Park.

Way too personal

Benjamin Eaton Junior High School

73-74 Seventh Grade First girl friend, Started going to Fox Hill Road Baptist, sang in youth choir (Tell It Like It Is), trip to Eagle Iree [sp] retreat Summer ’73, got in trouble for teasing Debbie - she went to my house and told my mom - punished by having to carry her books and walk her to school for a MONTH!

74-75 Eight Grade  Started smoking – it was cool then, got caught one day and ate the cigarette to get rid of it before Mr. Bohaun saw me –      I didn’t think he he did but he was standing behind me watching me smoke for 2 or 3 minutes – he took me to the office and started laughing – he said that was punishment enough and let me go – I could have been suspended

Invented the weed eater for a science fair but got a D because it was not really science and Mr. Bagger said that such a thing is not practical anyway

First Egg Drop Contest – Second Place

75-76 Ninth Grade    Met Jim Sealy  

Second Egg Drop contest – First Place by modifying original design (several others tried to copy but failed)

Pembroke High School

76-77 Tenth Grade    My conversion and church life . . . holding hands with Jesus . . .Met Wayne Riggins

77-78 Eleventh Grade Got my drivers’ license, the WGH Car, Wayne and I introduced his brother, Emmett, to Terri

Laughed out of ROTC . . .

Summer trip to Texas and Arkansas with Mamma

78-79 Twelfth Grade Started working at WGH Radio

While working at WGH, Foretelling the future be accidentally running the 8 am news at 4 in the morning

Skipping school and dodging dad as I drove my WGH Car and he was delivering potato chips, decided Hampton was not the place to be during the day Disastrous trip with Wayne to Tennessee – wrecked dads car while towing Terri and Emmett’s car

Need to find yearbooks . . . (Found, at the top of the steps in the Attic) 

Aunt Wanda: Again the stories are here. You can’t be lazy

 Making the jump


 I loved my family.  I loved my friends.  However, I needed a purpose in my life and I thought a college education would be a way of obtaining that goal.  I also wanted to get a better job than what I was doing for the radio station.

 A school project leads  (led) me into the army.  As part of a social studies project, we had to research the life and benefits in one of the armed services.  I chose to do the army since I liked that kind of stuff.  I used some of the information I learned in my short stint in the Junior Officers Training Course (ROTC) and some of the research from the library.  However, the life changing research came from visiting an actual army recruiter.  I liked what they were offering and decided to sign up for the delayed entry program.  When mom signed the paperwork, I was then a member of the US Army with a reporting date of July 5th, 1979 – one month after graduation.

I joined the Army too (or also) for the college tuition.  Still unsure of my direction in life, I asked if I could fix or fly helicopters.  They said no because of my eyesight (I wore glasses).  However, based on the scores I made on some aptitude tests, I was qualified to be in the maintenance field.  I was mechanically inclined so I accepted whatever was available.  I had no idea what I was getting into, but I became a Power Generation/Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic.  I was off to basic training and then advanced individual training.  My first duty assignment was Fort Benning, Georgia.

 A new journey

 1979 – Army life:

            Fort Jackson, South Carolina

            Basic Training: July 5 to August 26

            Advanced Training: August 27 to October 10

             Fort Benning, Georgia November 1979

             586th Engineer Company

Met SPC Gary Petette

Worked with SGT Gary Lore

1980 Busted, spent two months in Rehab (best thing ti happen to me - Bad time, good ending) TDY to Mississippi

1981 – First tour to Korea

            April 8 – 4th and 7th Cavalry, Camp Garry Owen

            Crazy company commander

            Lost $1,500.00

            Repelling trip to Chejido Island

            Worked For SGT Michael Schaffer

 1982 – Fort Hood

May 4 to October (83) – Headquarters and Headquarters Service Company, 303rd Military Intelligence

- Became interested in computers – bought TRS 84

Enrolled in Central Texas College (Two night a week)

1983 – Korea

            November 10, 1983 to September 1988 – Headquarters, 41st Signal Battalion

1984 – Korea – Met SFC Terry Fidone, Mentor and Motor Sergeant

1985 – Korea, met and married Donna – crazy battalion commander –

1986 – Korea, Christina was born (Sep 30), brought Heather and Jeremy to Korea.         Rebuilt the Motor Pool.

1987 – Korea – was told that there would never be a practical use for a computer at home.

1988 –Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri

            September 15 to August (94), Headquarters, 58th Transportation Battalion

1989 – Fort Leonard Wood, applied to adopt Heather and Jeremy – finalized four months     later

1990 – Fort Leonard Wood

1991 – Fort Leonard Wood

1992 – Fort Leonard Wood – bought my first real computer for home

1993 – Fort Leonard Wood

1994 – Fort Leonard Wood August 1 Retirement number one (15 years)

1995 – Hampton, VA – Jesse Simmons Upholstery – my computer broke

1996 – Hopewell, VA – (April) Innovative Logistics Techniques

1997 – Chester, VA – Innovation Logistics Techniques

1998 – Chester, VA – Innovation Logistics Techniques

1999 – Chester, VA – Innovation Logistics Techniques

2000 – Chester, VA – Innovation Logistics Techniques

2001 – Chester, VA – Innovation Logistics Techniques

2002 – Chester, VA – Innovation Logistics Techniques

2003 – Chester, VA – Innovation Logistics Techniques

2004 – Chester, VA – Innovation Logistics Techniques

2005 – Chester, VA – Innovation Logistics Techniques

2006 – Chester, VA – Innovation Logistics Techniques

2007 – Chester, VA – Innovation Logistics Techniques

2008 – Chester, VA – Innovation Logistics Techniques

2009 – Chester, VA – Innovation Logistics Techniques

My Quotes:

"I hope to live to be 100 years old.  I do not want my headstone to span two centuries 1960 to 20??  However, it looks like it will be that way – when I am buried, I hope they put Born 60 to Died 60.  That will leave people wondering"

"Forrest Gump said that life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get."  I say, "You can look in the lid of the box and it will tell you where the good candies are and if you read the Holy Bible, you can learn what to expect in life."

"Everything is perfect whether it's good or bad . . ."

"The biggest mistake a person can make is not learning from his or her mistakes . . ."

"Work like you are earning seven times as much as you make."

"Unless you are married, there is no such thing as safe sex – even on the Internet."


This is from an email I sent to Brenda several years ago . . .

I joined the Army to for the college tuition.  Still unsure of my direction in life, I asked if I could fix or fly helicopters.  They said no because of my eyesight (I wore glasses).  However, based on the scores I made on some aptitude tests, I was qualified to be in the maintenance field.  I was mechanically inclined so I accepted whatever was available.  I had no idea what I was getting into, but I became a Power Generation/Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic.  I was off to basic training and then advanced individual training.  My first duty assignment was Fort Benning, Georgia.

In the second month of being assigned to Fort Benning, I got in with the wrong kind of people.  It was not long before I was persuaded into running drugs for some fellow soldiers in the company.  They had a drug ring in the barracks and convinced me to be part of it.  It seemed to be a lucrative business and added substantially to my meager income as a private.  I cannot begin to tell you how guilt ridden and paranoid I always felt.  It was at that time I felt farthest from God since I was saved as a boy.  This was a dangerous business – not a danger from being killed or anything, but the danger from being caught by the military police.  That is exactly what happened.  To this day, I believe God had a hand in that and the circumstances surrounding what happened.

I was in my 4th month at Fort Benning, It was on a Monday, and I was driving from the motor pool where I worked, when I came upon a military police checkpoint.  They were checking every other car with search dogs, and my car happened to be in position to be searched.  Even though I was scared, I knew that, at the time, there were no drugs in the car.  I kept my car clean and over the weekend, I washed and vacuumed it.  I was careful when I carried drugs in from off post and I knew there was none in the car.  Boy was I wrong.  The procedure was to stop the car and turn off the engine.  The dog was supposed to walk around the car - it only took a few second – then I would be off.  Everything seemed to go in slow motion.  The dog walked around from the front driver's side, around the back and when it got to my door, it just sat down.  They told me to pull over into a parking lot and get out.  They went through the car and found one marijuana joint and one pill.  I do not know where they came from.  I often wonder if God planted that Himself. 

I was promptly arrested and transported to the military police station where I went through the military’s process of being booked.  I guess it was 7 hours later when the company First Sergeant came to pick me up.  He did not say much, but took me back to the barracks and told me to report to the Company Commander the next morning.  It was late and I was tired, but I did not get much sleep that night.

The next day, I went to see the commander.  I sat in his office for several hours before I finally told to see him.  All that time, the worst thoughts went through my mind and I thought my life was ruined.  You know.  I never prayed to ask God to help me in my situation.  He was farthest from my mind.  I just thought all was lost.  My Platoon leader and Platoon Sergeant came in and the First Sergeant announced that the Commander would see us now.  I was shaking like a leaf and fought hard to hold back the tears.  This was the second time I ever saw the Commander face to face, the first being the day he welcomed me into the company.  Everyone had very stern looks on their faces.  The Commander read me my rights of Article 15 under the Uniformed Code of Military Justices, told me what I was accused of, and read the sentence if found guilty of these charges; Courts Martial, forfeiture of all pay, and 10 years confinement.  After waiving my rights, I was subjected to about 20 or 30 minutes of a lecture telling me about things I have done that I was sure no one else knew about.  I thought that was it.  Then he said something that surprised me.  He said that as a soldier, I was doing a good job and had potential.  He said there was a new program that recently started for soldiers that needed additional discipline.  The sentence I received was 60 days in the Soldier’s Rehabilitation Program, with 6 months of what amounted to be probation in which I could not receive any awards or promotions.  At the end of that time, if I were found to be fit to return to duty, no further action would be taken.  I was immediately escorted to my room to pack and while doing that, my Platoon Sergeant told me how lucky I was.

I spent the next 2 months living in a different barracks, doing physical training early each morning, standing inspection everyday after breakfast, doing post police call (picking up trash) until lunch, drill and ceremony every afternoon, and pulling guard duty half of every night, it was like basic training all over again.  On Saturday, we did the same, but on Sunday, we were allowed to attend the Chapel service of our choice.  After that, we were allowed one hour in the Post Exchange and then given the rest of the afternoon to wash our uniforms and prepare for the following week.  Although this was the hardest thing I ever went through, it was the best thing that could ever happen to me.  Throughout my military career, no one could pass an inspection as I could.  Even better than that, the Chapel services were wonderful and I no longer felt the guilt I had before.

After I was released, I moved back into the barracks were I first lived.  It was like the first time I was assigned to the unit.  Everyone was welcoming me back. A few new soldiers thought I was new, but could not understand why everyone knew me.  The sad part, which really in my case was a miracle on my behalf, was that 2 of the guy’s who talked me into running drugs were caught with a substantial amount of marijuana while I was going through the rehabilitation program, they were tried and sentenced to Fort Leavenworth.  The person, who was my roommate as well as his new roommate, was sentenced to 15 years.  They were caught with 20 ounces of marijuana in their room.  I once brought a 4-pound bag into the barracks for my roommate.   Some of the others involved were caught and sentenced to Fort Leavenworth.  I was told that the Commander did not show any mercy for that group of soldiers.

For a while, it was hard for me to sleep.  I came so close to being part of that group.  I came so close to being in prison myself.  If I went through that police check point a week earlier or maybe a week later.  It could have been me.  God had a plan for me, but it was not in the prison ministry yet.

Years later, I came to realize that anyone could make mistakes.  One mistake could cause a person’s life to be completely different.  I realized that I am no different from those soldiers who were sentenced to prison.  The only difference was God’s grace.  I did not know why he allowed me to be spared from the sentence I really deserved, but now I see that his purpose was to show me that those who are sentenced to prison and I are the same.  Since we are the same, there should be no reason why I should not visit and worship my brothers whom God allowed to be sentenced.  He has a purpose for everyone and everything.  When Lennie Nugent of Colonial Heights Baptist first started getting involved in the prison ministry, I could not picture myself doing that or visiting “those” people.  However, my mind kept going back to that time I was in trouble and kept telling me that I was one of “those” people. 

I visit the prison as often as I can.  Words cannot describe the feelings I get from our worship services at the prison.  Each time is a blessing and each time it is different.  I have had a number of wonderful opportunities to witness the power of God working in these men.  My experience is that the majority of the inmates care about each other and about people on the outside.  They have gifts to offer and are looking for a way to use them, just as we are.  The group of men that formed the praise team is amazing.  It is powerful to hear them lead a large group of men singing "Amazing Grace" straight from their hearts.  I cannot hear that hymn now without thinking of them.  After having experienced all of this, it is impossible for me to demonize people in prison.  Instead, I find God's grace in their lives.  It has been an amazing gift to me to find grace where I feared it might not be.

I do not think God appreciated the fact that I carried drugs around for people, but I think he used the experience to give me the passion I have for the prison ministry today and when the time was right, he brought Lennie into my life.

It was about 3 weeks after my release from the Soldiers Rehabilitation Program that I met Gary Petette.  You will read about him in the testimony below. 

God is Faithful Even in Our Unfaithfulness

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”    Deuteronomy 31:8

I didn’t come from a Christian family and as a young child wasn’t even made to go to church.  When I was 12 years old, I was invited to go to Langley Baptist Church, by a neighbor who lived close to me.  From then on I attended every Sunday for Sunday School and worship service and every Wednesday for the Royal Ambassador program.  At age 14, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and was baptized at that church.  I really did not understand what I was doing, but the Lord has been faithful to me ever since during my life, even though I was not.

Changes in my life kept drawing me away from the Lord, but I believe he actively kept his promise to be faithful.  In the first year of Junior High School, I stopped attending Langley Baptist after making new friends who didn’t believe as I did.  I was a child in the Lord but it was easier to go with the crowd.  During the second year of Junior High, while at a family reunion, I met a second cousin, Joan Cowley, for the first time.  She attended Fox Hill Road Baptist church and told me about a new youth ministry they were just starting.  She invited me to her church and again I was back in church.  At that time, I rededicated my life and stayed in church until my senior year of high school.

I joined the Army in 1979, went through basic and advanced training, and was assigned to my first duty station.  I was at Fort Benning for about six months, running around with the wrong people doing the wrong things, when God, in his faithfulness, sent another person to get me back in church.  The very first time I met Sergeant Gary Petette, he asked me what church I was going to, within two minutes of our meeting.  I said, “I’m not going to . . .” he interrupted and said he would pick me up Sunday.  He insisted, and that very Sunday, I starting attending a local chapel with him.  Gary and I were good friends over the next year and a half.

After 18 months, I was reassigned to Korea.  When I got there, I went to chapel services for a while, but that didn’t last very long.  Once again I was not faithful.  It seemed easier to sleep in on Sundays rather than to go to the chapel.  After my tour in Korea, I was reassigned to Fort Hood.  I was there for six months when I made my first trip to the main post area.  I was in the PX when I saw, none other than, Sergeant Gary Petette standing in the check out line.  He was just assigned and had been there for less than a month when we met again.  The second word out of his mouth, the first being hello, was “what church are you going to”.  Sadly, I had to say none.  He told me he found a good church off post, and once again, I found myself where I belonged.

I reenlisted in the Army and the time came again to be reassigned.  The Army sent me to back to Korea and once again, I spent less time in church.  Within a few of months I was not attending at all.  I was in such a good position that I decided to extend my tour of duty.  I put a lot of time and effort in my job and no effort in seeking the Lord.  It was during this extension that I met Donna.  She wasn’t a Christian at the time, but that part of our lives was not on our minds.  We dated for about seven months and decided to get married.  It was in our first year of marriage that, one day, out of the blue, Donna said that we needed to go to church.  We started attending a chapel on post for a while, and then attended a chapel in the housing area that we were assigned.  After a while, we were invited to the Seoul International Baptist Church.  This is where Donna was saved and baptized!  We attended that church every Sunday until it came to the time that we would be reassigned to a new duty station.

After 6 years in Korea, the time came that we would be reassigned.  My new assignment was Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  Now, even though God was faithful to me all throughout my life, I still was not faithful to Him.  The last thing on my mind when I got to Leonard Wood was to find a church for my family and me to attend.  Not realizing it at the time, I was discouraging Donna from pursuing a church also.  Now, this is the most amazing part of this testimony.  One of the rules for being assigned to Fort Leonard Wood was to attend a one-day housing maintenance seminar within 30 days of your assignment.  I dutifully attended the class at the first opportunity.  While I sitting there, waiting for the class to begin, I felt a tap on my shoulder.  Sitting behind me was my old friend, Gary Petette! Almost 7 years after I last saw him!  Guess what he asked me?  Now the truly amazing part of this story is that he had been at Leonard Wood for 6 months, but it was on that particular day that he was finally able to make it to that mandatory class.  If he had gone any other time, we may have never met.  Does not that show how faithful God can be?  That Sunday, My family and I met Gary at Westside Baptist Church.  And that same day we joined the church.  It was here that Donna came to understand the true meaning of salvation and came to know Christ as her savior and this is where Heather was saved!

Ever since then, wherever Donna and I go, we actively search out a church that preaches the gospel.  I retired from the Army and we moved back to Hampton, we joined the church I attended as a teenager in high school.  After 2 years we moved to Chester so I could be closer to the office where I worked.  Donna searched for a church while I traveled around the country.  Once again, God was faithful and put Shirley Kogel, a member of Colonial Heights Baptist Church, in our lives.  Within a few days of our meeting, she invited us to her church.  On that first Sunday we knew this was where God wanted us!  We have been here ever since.  This is where Christina and Jeremy accepted Christ!

It is truly amazing how God has been faithful to me throughout my life from the time I accepted him as my Savior.  I must also admit that during the times I was away from the church and his will, I would become miserable and was filled with guilt.  I thank God for his faithfulness and people he put in my life, especially for my wife Donna.  She was truly a gift from God.  God is Faithful!

I need to add the other projects I was involved in while working at INNOLOG.

Current Project with the US CENSUS

This project put me back on the road again and one of the places I had to go was Phoenix Arizona.  Dad’s brother Russell lives in Casa Grande and Aunt Wanda gave me his information – I called him and was able to visit him and my cousin (Shirley) and her daughter.  What an exciting visit!

It was just like talking to dad.  You would not believe the similarities between two people who have not seen each other since they left home.  Unbelievably, they did the exact same things in life except they did it on opposite sides of the world.  Both joined the army, both went overseas (dad went to Germany, Russell went to Korea), both came back and settled down on their end of the country (dad on the east coast and Russell on the west coast).  Both were radio operators in the army, both loved electronics but was never able to get into that type of work, both are well versed in mechanics, carpentry, plumbing, and electronics and both ended up starting up and running their own businesses that had nothing to do with their real abilities and then retired because of illness.  Both have the same thing . . .

Russell went on and on (just like dad) about the years when they grew up, about their families then and now.  Russell collaborated many stories that dad tells us that kind of didn’t believe.  Russell has the same opinion of his mom and dad that dad has and gave the same reason for never drinking or allowing any of their children to drink.  The whole thing was uncanny!

Russell’s wife passed away but he and dad had wives who are Christians.  Unfortunately, they both have the same opinion about God.  That’s sad . . .

Anyway, He had many stories to tell and we had a great time.  I told him that he and dad were two peas in a pod.



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