I lost, then found myself again
Growing up my first 30 or 40 years was not difficult to get lost, and I mean really lost into myself. Born in San Bernardino, California was the start of my very long journey, one that would find me in a whirlwind of losing myself as my life would take one dramatic turn after another. I say growing up as if I actually did grow up, somewhere in the U.S. of A! Well, that was or is not the case, nor did my inner self for one moment think it might be. I found God around four years old, in Vienna Austria, and that was when God found me, but I became lost for all practical purposes. Not to worry, I would find myself at some point along the “Long and Winding Road”! But for the moment, as the extraordinary events of losing who I was or am became clear to me at a very early age. After all, four years old “God” decided to give me some direction in life, and it scared me that I did not know what his silent message was. Austria was just the first stepping stone along the way, and “God” would soon make it clear to me that what he had in mind for me was not something to fear, but to embrace!
As time passed, about the speed of a snail that was more lost than I could ever be. Soon my father’s career as a member of the United States Air Force would take us, our family, on what would become a life style, moving from state to state, and then country to country. It might have been exciting to my father, and for a while, my mother, but as the moving increased, the toll it was taking on my mother was clear. Of course, as she had children, none in the same State, mom and dad found six (Two girls, and four boys) children would be about all they could handle. We lined up something like this, first my Sister Judy, then me (Milton Jr), my brother Mike, another brother Maurice, then came Marshall, and finally the baby of course, Gina, and she will always be the “The baby of the family”. And I thought I had challenges. All I can think of is how did my poor mom maintain her sanity? Dad of course, was always gone it seemed, as “duty called” and kept him on the road. As lost as I was within myself, the rest of the family appeared to be solid, knew exactly who they were, and the direction of their lives. Only I was so early in life lost, looking for answers to questions that had not yet been asked!
Nine years old was the year I became aware that “God” had a plan for me; he was just slow to bring it to my attention. It was in Fort Worth Texas where I bonded with the boy who would become my best friend. Dan Capers would soon be as much a part of me as any of my brothers. We would have adventures that only “Tom Sawyer” (You know, grew from out of Mark Twain’s mind) could have, rafts, hiking the gulf course across the street from where we lived. Just imagine it and we did it as if it came from the book, off the shelf of Mr. Twain’s house! My brothers were still two young and Dan and I was the same age, and our imaginations took us to journeys that only Huck and Mr. Twain knew about. Then I lost track of my friend Dan, and as we moved from Texas to Japan. We made a pact to meet in the mountains of Organ when we were 22, if either of us lived that long. I was still looking for my path, and destination. Little did I know how much God had in store for me, but I was learning. So much to tell about the excitement two boys could have in only three years, all part of losing myself, then my long journey would find me, after all, I was in the hands of God, I was then and am now as safe as any man could be protected by my creator. God was there, and he was at that point guiding me, I just did not know it.
To keep from writing a book, I will skip my adventures I had while a young boy growing up in Japan for four years. We lived in several cities while my father was stationed in Japan, which included Gifu Japan, Nagoya Japan, and finally, Tokyo Japan. The base housing in Tokyo was next to the imperial palace gardens, separating us only by a stone wall, but not high enough to climb over where a young boy like me could find a world of adventures to discover! It was in Japan I could feel God’s presence more than ever and knew he was guiding me, but still left me hanging on just why he paid so much attention to me. I could feel how close God and I were becoming. If only he would whisper in my ear his intentions, but I dare not ask or question God, he already has allowed me to know he had something in store for me, I just had to be patient, it would all come out when our Father in heaven was ready, or felt I was ready. I must admit, I was getting anxious and would hint that I was ready for whatever he had in store for me. But it was God who had to be ready for his plans for a growing boy, who was just getting to know and understand God had a plan, I just had to wait for him to act, so I decided that when God was ready, he would help me find myself. One thing I knew for sure is God would not allow me to remain lost all my life; he would give me purpose before taking me home.
Coming back to the United States from Japan was in its self an exciting adventure for a teenager like me. One who was growing up, but still trying to determine what life held for me in my future. I was beginning to understand that something important was going to happen and I was anxious to get there, but had to wait for that signal from God, then I would have all the answers I needed, or so I thought. My dad was now stationed once again where I started out, where I was born. So, was I lost, or had I found myself, with God’s help of course. The answer would be far from what I was hoping for. But it was a beginning for me; at least I felt it was. San Bernardino California was an amazing place for someone like me. I soon would connect with a friend who lived not far from me, Tom O’Neal, who would become my best friend since Dan Capers from Texas. Tom and I would bond with each other, then God’s earth. It appears now that I am nearly a grown man, a few years and schooling to go, I might soon find the path God intended for me. Time will soon give me the answers, or at least I pray that time will, but then, it is God I am waiting for, so I still have some learning to do, but I am closer, I can feel it.
My father would soon be reassigned to Oakland and we would move first to Port Hueneme, then to Oxnard California. It would be there that my future would come to light; God would lead me into military service, enlisting into Army Intelligence (ASA), now known as (INSCOM). It would be the next 20 plus years that God would bring me into the light, the lost child would become a man, who has found that God put me in the right place at the right time. I would wind up in England, marry my sweet Val, be reassigned to Greece, then Vietnam where I would leave there after many near death experiences, a highly decorated soldier, wounded but intact. Augusta Georgia, then off to Ethiopia, Colorado Springs, Augsburg Germany, Harrisburg, PA, down to Pensacola, Fla., back to Augsburg where God’s plan for me included a heart attack, taking me back to California for bi-pass surgery, fighting the system to remain in the military as I had only one and a half years to go to complete my 20. My last assignment would be Ft. McPherson, East Point Georgia. My wife and I would settle down in Fairburn, where we have now lived for over 30 years.
In each of the places I named, I can assure you were filled with adventures, each involving God’s gift to me, that I can never tell anyone about as my job was highly classified and sensitive to our nation’s security. Yes, for many of my early years I was lost, waiting for God’s path for me and when it did, I can only say that there is no question in my mind about God knowing what he is doing. I waited, it took longer than I hoped for, but he allowed me to find my way, with him guiding I could not fail. The greatest gift of all, along the way, was a young girl in England who became my wife, is now my care taker, and knows just how to love me and make me feel loved and needed. What she went through with and for me is more than any man has a right to ask any wife, but she came through, all a part of God’s plan, I am sure of that! As far as being lost, well I was only lost in my mind, God always knew where I was, and what path I must take. If you just trust in him, allow him to take you through life, you will never really ever be lost. I now understand why I had to wait for the path he would take me down. So, I am found, actually I was found back when God took me by the hand and led me to where I would meet my wife Val. I’ll never be lost again. But wow, the stories to be told between that four year old boy in Vienna Austria, and this seventy year old man, who found himself! Thank you Lord, you gave me a great life, and wife, and two sons. Thank you for showing me the way home.