Nicholas B.

Nicholas B.

from MO
Story #682
I awaken from my slumber aboard a C-17 aircraft in which we have been traveling in for some time in route to Almaty, Kazakhstan. It is September 10, 2000 and the soft roar of the plane can be heard in route to its final destination. I am a Infantry squad leader at the age of 21 in the 82nd Airborne Division and this will be my final parachute jump before my discharge date. My heart is racing and adrenaline pumping in anticipation of the peacemaking exercise we will be jumping into. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 relations between the United States and Russia have not improved and our mission is to try and strengthen this interaction and train with one another. We act as ambassadors in this endeavor and are known to the world as, “America’s Guard of Honor.”

I begin to get all my gear on in anticipation of the jump, to include, main parachute, reserve parachute, rucksack, Kevlar, and weapons kit. The familiar sound of the paratroop doors open revealing the C-17’s external platform along with the strong diesel smell coming off its four engines, I can see the piercing sunlight come through the door and you can hear the rush of air as the plane advances onward. The jumpmaster ensures everything is safe on their assigned doors, confirms a reference point and then gives the command 10 minutes “Get Ready” we all are making final preparations, Outboard personnel stand up, inboard personnel stand up we all get to our feet under the heavy weight of our gear, Hook Up!

I take my static line and hook into the anchor line cable this will ensure it pulls the parachute from my pack upon exiting, the next command comes “Check Static Lines,” I am thoroughly inspecting my line and my fellow jumpers to ensure no misroutes frays, tears etc, “Check Equipment” ensuring everything is secured correctly, Sound off for Equipment Check I hear the sounds of okay moving up the line starting from the last jumper and moving it way towards me until it gets to the first paratrooper who will be jumping out of the plane. We all look at the light at the back of the aircraft that is solid red at this point and acts as the same as a stoplight at an intersection. Jumpmaster tells the first jumper stand in the door and we are locked in knowing we will be thrusting ourselves out of an airplane at only 800 feet into a country we have never been before. The same recurring thoughts before every jump consume my mind, what if my chute doesn’t open, or I become a tow jumper where I am almost beaten to death hung by my static line, will I go to heaven? I am snapped out of my trance by the red light turning to green an indicator it is time to jump out. I move to the door under my heavy load as my line moves forward. It all appears in slow motion feeling as if the plane is swaying under my feet and I work to maintain my balance towards the door.

I look the jumpmaster in the eye hand him my static line and make a 90 degree turn towards the door ensuring I take that extra step outside this plane. As I step off the platform the prop blast throws me to the wind and I count to five, elbows in, chin tucked, feet and knees together. There is a shock to my harness as my main parachute deploys revealing a perfect canopy. I have plenty of distance between my fellow jumpers and look to the ground next for a reference point in order to determine the direction of travel. The ground moves by fast and I am caught off guard because we were told this would be a lush green landing zone however it looked more my like the moon’s surface with craters and boulders. I land straight down with a thud and feel a pain shoot through my lower back. My first thought is I don’t want to go to a Russian hospital, and with that, grit my teeth get my M-4 carbine into operation and do recovery of my chute and move towards the assembly point. This jump represented my final one and marked number 30 with the majority being conducted under the cover of night. Several weeks later we return to Fort Bragg and I am told good job and my duties as squad leader are no more and to begin with the transition back to civilian life.

At the end of December 2000 my Dad arrived at Fort Bragg to help me move back to my home state of Missouri. It was a difficult day having to say goodbye to some of my closest friends as we loaded up the U-Haul. It still amazes me at how quickly relations are built in the service and made so strong in such a short amount of time. Relations come and go in life but those forged within the service are never forgotten. The last couple months leading up to my departure for me were filled with drunkenness, getting thrown out of night clubs and I decided to carry this into the civilian world upon arriving home. This resulted in me being physically thrown out of multiple bars for inciting fights. I looked into counseling with the VA but decided against it and in 2001 my life and perspective was forever changed. I had went to a town with a friend of mine and we went into this establishment that was known for being the best dance club in the area. I immediately started in on Long Island Ice teas and was planning to be drunk very quickly. As often happened the room started spinning and I would black out. Most of the time I awoke in my bunk, bed, or on the floor with my friends filling me in on the details about what I had done the night before.

This time was different I woke up in a cell with an orange suit on and the room had rubber walls. A guard came to the door and I lied telling them I was diabetic and could not remain in a room. They put my food through a slot in the door and then a female sheriff came to talk to me. Instead of my friends recounting the night before she proceeded to tell me that they responded to a call at the bar and when they arrived I assaulted the head Sheriff of their department they were forced to neutralize me with pepper spray. Then she said something that completely caught me off guard. She said, “I can tell you have a good heart and will go and do good things.” I remember thinking that was not a natural response to the offense that had just been committed and I deserved to be punished for my actions. However they gave me my clothes to change back into and I was free to go, no charges.

I remember that morning I stepped out of the jail and was met with the brightest sunlight in my hungover stupor. My first thought was I have to get a cab in order to make it in time for a college course I was taking all the way in Lee’s Summit next to my parent’s house. It was about an hour drive from the jail and given my friend had driven me the night before I needed to call a cab. When the cab driver picked me up we began the drive to my house in order to pick up my school books. Along the way I was recounting to him the events of the previous 24 hours and he kept telling me, “forgiveness is available if you ask, and we all fall short and make mistakes.” It was the opposite reaction of what I was expecting and I chalked it up as all a coincidence at the time. Even with this incident I did not change my behavior and the last one resulted in me going to the emergency room because I tried to take a keg from someone’s birthday party. It was only a matter of time before everything caught up with me and I had it coming for some time. I had to get a couple stitches and my front teeth repaired after being beaten up by a guy. Shortly after this incident I met the most wonderful girl in the whole world.

Her name was Elizabeth Miller a beautiful girl that was extremely smart and one in which I felt comfortable in sharing my life events with. After three years of our courtship I proposed to her in front of a whole restaurant filled with people and thankfully she said yes. We had our wedding on July 17th, 2004 and then we rented a townhome in Warrensburg, MO where I was working on obtaining a degree. I was carrying with me all this guilt, shame, and depression but no matter what I turned to self-help, and other books no relief could be found from the nightmares. Then one night I had a dream that forever changed the trajectory of my life. In this dream there was this enormous equation on the wall that had multiple derivatives, epsilon’s to figure out, I was trying so hard to come to the correct solution and was sweating in my dream, eventually I became too exhausted to stand and fell cross legged staring up at the huge whiteboard where the equation still stood unsolved.

Then two characters emerged from the whiteboard just like an auto stereogram, painting in the 1980’s where the viewer would stare at it and backup and a hologram like image would appear. The first letter I recognized α was alpha but was not certain on the second object that appeared and it looked like this Ω. That was the solution to this entire complex equation. I came downstairs and relayed to Elizabeth what happened in my dream and expressed my confusion. I am eternally grateful she knew scripture and told me in disbelief that second letter is Omega and Jesus said the following. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13).

Then it occurred to me that equation represented life and the solution was Jesus Christ. God further worked through an atheist professor to help show me his glory. I was taking an exploring religion course in college and my professor starting casting doubt on the validity of the Bible indicating there are only copies of the bible. Which encouraged me to read it and find everything out about it, I read the Bible from cover to cover and realized there was more evidence for the claims of this book than any other on the face of the planet and the author of life came to release me from bondage. In August 2006 on an interstate driving my truck I wept, confessed all my sins and repented for all the people I had hurt and gave my life to Christ recognizing my need for a Savior and knew only he has the power to transform like this. Now the question could be answered if I would go to heaven upon my death and the answer is yes. As I reflected back over my life the hand of God was always present but I never grasped it until that day.

As the years have passed every time I go to tell the story of how Jesus Christ has transformed my life it is met with a spiritual battle. The attacks come in the form of a questioning of my motives, doubt, fear of persecution, a push to relinquish my faith. This is further evidence to God’s existence and how the transformational testimonies of his followers are paramount in expanding the Gospel message. Anytime doubt enters my mind I am taken back to that dream and how Jesus Christ approached me directly to give me a new heart. Always in search of his lost sheep the story he gave me is the only evidence I will ever need. The evil one will do whatever he can to stamp out the good news, but the story of Jesus’s live giving redemption and grace must go on in order for other captives to be set free.

Update 2019 I have been involved in a ministry to help stop human trafficking and have led multiple Men's groups along with shared my testimony in front of large groups. A lot of my life has been marked with anxiety and depression and I went through counseling for about a year with someone who became my mental mentor and eventually friend in 2015. Also had to address items from my past and seek healing in these matters which required courage to speak out against destructive behavior that was present in my family of origin. Elizabeth and I have been happily married since 2004 and we have two wonderful children, a Pyrennes puppy and Ragamuffin cat. God is leading me to stand against the trafficking epidemic in our nation and to make others aware of the injustice occurring against children.

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