Excerpt from Finding Heaven In The Dark : Chapter 1 – Hard Time-page 4Published February 26, 2019
I made lots of wrong choices in my young life. Now, my maturity
gave me a different life view from most others. I wanted to be there,
because I had done the crime and must do the time.
Even with the right attitude, it didn’t take long for me to screw
up. That first morning at INDOC, we stood at attention before the
first light of day. All of us in white t-shirts and boxer shorts stood perfectly still with our toes on the line that stretched the length of the
squad bay. It was just like boot camp.
The sergeant walked down one side and up the other with a permanent scowl etched on his face. He was looking for any reason to
berate and punish. As soon as he spotted an infraction, real or imagined, he flew into a rage and issued punishment.“Drop and give me twenty!” he commanded. Then, he moved on to his next victim. In his wake, he would leave underwear-clad marines loudly counting out
I found the whole scene comical, but only smiled inwardly. Suddenly,
the sergeant was in front of me, only inches from my face. I
had left my shower shoes (flip-flops) under my bunk. The sergeant
spotted them, and he went berserk. He ordered me to turn and see the
infraction. I realized that in my rush to get on line, I had left them on
“Give me twenty,” he yelled automatically, as he glared and
waited for me to start my push-ups.
“I can’t do that, sir,” I heard myself saying calmly. “I respectfully
The NCO continued to look at me, but the scowl fell from his
face. All the counting stopped. After guys finished their punishment,
they returned to attention.
“What did you say?” he asked quietly, as he put his lips next to
The staff sergeant stuck his head out of his office, and when
everything went silent, he walked toward us quickly.
“What did he say?” the staff sergeant queried before I could
answer the NCO’s question.
“I said, I respectfully decline, sir,” I restated softly, yet forcefully.
“I refuse to go through boot camp again.”
“What are you talkin’ about, boy?” he asked in a tense whisper. I
figured he threw the “boy” in to anger me, but I remained calm.
“I refuse to go through boot camp again, sir. The corps doesn’t
require former marines to go through basic training a second time,”
I stated. “I see the error I made—leaving my shoes on the floor. I’ll
They were both stunned. Even I was a little stunned. Everything
and everyone was silent. Without any obvious movement, I knew
every eye was looking in our direction.
The sergeant spoke quietly. “Are you tryin’ to stir up some shit?
Are you one of those agitators, boy?”
“No sir, I’m not,” I emphasized softly. “I turned myself in to get
the punishment I deserve, but I don’t need to be broken down.”
“Why are you talking like some kind of text book? Are you supposed
to be a psychologist or somethin’?” the sergeant asked sarcastically.
“No, I’m just being me,” I answered. I relaxed and put myself at
ease. I began to use my hands to gesture as I spoke.
I stated my case: “I know that my shower shoes shouldn’t be
under the rack, but I think the punishment is excessive.”
“Do you think that you’re better than everyone else here?” the
staff sergeant asked, as he folded his arms across his chest.
We were all fully engaged and only inches apart. The game was
on. It was like a chess match—move and countermove. It was quite