Freed from a life of addiction, sin, and crime by an encounter with the Blessed Mother
Of course, as soon as I split, the guards sounded the alarm and locked down the entire base. They shut the gates and effectively prevented me—and everyone else—from getting back out into the real world. I ran through the officers’ housing and across the golf course, heading for a wooded area that offered several potentially good hiding places. But when I heard the sound of dogs barking behind me — aggressive Doberman Pinchers that were strong, intense, and had the speed and stamina to cover a lot of ground in a hurry — my options for escape were narrowing.
When I realized the dogs were hot on my trail, I knew I had to take desperate measures, so I stopped running and squeezed myself down into a sewer drain. On the positive side, jumping into the sewer kept me from being captured and kept the dogs from getting at me. Sure enough, shortly after I took the plunge, I saw police cars go by, their sirens wailing. Then came the dogs and the crackling sound of their handlers’ walkie-talkies.
On the downside, I had voluntarily jumped into a pool of raw sewage. I tried not to look around too much, so I wouldn’t get a good look at exactly what I was wading in. But it was hard to ignore the stench, which was so strong at times that I could barely keep from vomiting.
During the period of time I was in the drain, the sewage ebbed and flowed — at one point rising all the way up to my neckline. I was lucky it didn’t rise any higher because I’m not sure I could have extricated myself. I had wedged myself so far down — and the walls of the drain were so slick — I probably couldn’t have hauled myself up, even if it was a matter of life and death. I would have drowned in a pool of excrement.
Still, except for the brief moment when I thought I might be completely submerged, I never seriously contemplated getting out. I would have remained in that sewer drain as long as necessary if it would have saved me from being captured and deported.
Unfortunately, as time went on, I heard the sound of barking dogs again. Looking up out of the drain into the light, I saw an MP come into view, holding back a pair of madly barking Dobermans. The MP said, “Alright, come up out of there, son.” I tried to lift myself out, but as I feared, I couldn’t get out under my own power. Another MP had to squeeze in with me and literally drag me out. When he came down and made eye contact with me, he gave me the most disgusted look I’ve ever seen in my life, as if to say, “I can’t believe it’s because of you that I’m standing in a big pool of feces. This is not what I signed up for when I joined the Navy.”
After the guards handcuffed me, they walked me all the way back to the brig — a 25- or 30- minute walk. I was so nasty and foul that they didn’t want to soil the seats of their military police vehicle. Then, when we got back to the jail, they didn’t even let me take a shower. An MP took me into the bathroom and sort of half-heartedly washed me down using a sponge and a slop bucket. It was clearly going to be a long night. Of course, having learned their lesson the hard way, now they didn’t let me go to the bathroom by myself any more. When I used the restroom, an MP had to be there, to my chagrin and his, I’m sure.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, my self-centered actions were affecting my entire family. Two weeks earlier, the American military directed my mother to leave the country with my younger brother, Matthew, ostensibly to begin resettling our family in the United States. The rationale was that my father and I would then have a place to come home to when they found me. Or in a worst-case scenario, the authorities would at least know where to ship my body. Before I was captured, the Japanese considered it more likely that I would be going home in a body bag. The Navy had already settled on Reading, Pennsylvania, as my father’s next duty station where he would serve as a supply officer.