Today is a BIG anniversary for me...but--of what?
TODAY is a big ANNIVERSARY day for me!October 23, 1967, was a Monday.I stood in front of District Judge Leo Brewster as he sentenced me to Six years in Federal Prison.Why?The United States of America V Terry Edwin Walstromfor violation of the Universal Military Training and Service Act.
(Case CR4510)But...but...the maximum sentence under the law is 5 years!Ah yes, but you see--I was only 20 years old at the time and Judge Brewster's sentencing fell under the Youth Corrections Act which allowed 6 mos. to 6 years sentence.So?So once every six months I'd go before a Parole Hearing board for review (and refusal, as it turned out.)If you know me, you know this story backward and forwards. I wrote about it in my 1st book, "I Wept by the Rivers of Babylon".How do I view the entire episode in my life these 51 years later?One point needs to be made.Conscientious Objectors were ALLOWED by law to refuse induction under the proviso they spend at least 2 years working for the community as ALTERNATE service.I, on the other hand, belonged to a "cult" who told me I could not perform alternate community service.I was advised against my own best interests.Undue influence.Consequently, I WASTED 2 years of my life under the false impression I was serving God when, in fact, I was serving a false religious organization who didn't give a sh*t about me, the community or the law.Once each year, on October 23rd, I get to rethink my decision back then.I'm not bitter--but--I'm still pissed off at the hubris of the Watchtower organization.These fallible men have changed their "true" teachings over and over and over during the last half-century while the good-hearted folks who believe their every utterance suffer the consequences.In the last couple of years, the Watchtower has gone to court for failure to report child abuse and they've LOST MILLIONS of DOLLARS in fines. This corruption is KEPT SECRET.Current members are instructed NOT to read or believe anything negative.So yes--I'm pissed. Still.I have good friends inside this false religion who will never know the depth of duplicity and corruption of their "only true religion."That simply saddens me.Happy Anniversary? No. Not so much.
The wretched irony of it is, some time in the 90's the WTS reversed course and "alternative service" is now perfectly fine for JWs where there is still compulsory military service.
You'd sooner see Trump kissing a Mexican migrant as he crossed the border, than hear an apology from the WTS.
For a cult that less than 30 years later flip-flopped on their view of alternative service. This was the first thing that opened my eyes to what the organization is.
I feel like we were robbed of decades of our lives by the false prophets of the WT Cult. However your story helps me to realize that at least I was not robbed of my physical freedom for years due to their f*cked up ever-changing policies.
yeah, been there done that, 67 or 68 same issue same circumstance, only different sentence. The Sacramento judge fined $3,000 and 5 years probation. He figured prison for JW's was pointless and just a government expense. He was a fan of Abraham Lincoln and as during the Civil War one could buy their way out of army for $300, he just factored in inflation and made it $3,000.
I share your feelings of resentment as to the absence of human feeling and willingness to sacrifice peoples lives in pure hypocrisy.
Sir82 pointed out, "The wretched irony of it is, some time in the 90's the WTS reversed course and "alternative service" is now perfectly fine for JWs..."
Also worth noting is that the USA now relies on an ALL VOLUNTEER military; there is no more draft! How convenient!
I'm a member of Brother Terry's "generation" (no overlap, please, we're rational) and like him I faced the draft. I took the same stand he did and I was "lovingly counseled" to EXPECT to spend some time in prison. But I didn't! I pioneered and offered an acceptably articulate defense of my convictions to the draft board. I nearly fell over when my draft board gave me my 4-D ministerial exemption!
Was I better than Brother Terry? HELL NO! To the best of my knowledge neither of us was leading a "double-life." I may even have been closer to being a "doubler" than Brother Terry was - I know my secret transgressions, but not his.
So was this "Jehovah's judgment"? I REJECT that suggestion! There IS NO Jehovah! All there is is unblinking time and uninterested circumstance! Each draft board was unique - it was made of LOCAL men - volunteers - who judged each "draft dodger" against the other juvenile delinquents the draft board had to deal with!
I was in NYC, where my behavior and "godly devotion" may have made me seem saintly next to the punks, thugs, hippies, morphodites and gonzos who lived in my burg.
Bro T, on the other hand, may have been from an area off the country where most kids his age were fairly good citizens, so by contrast his gowns may not have seemed so brilliantly white.
Can you see how 50 years later, I wrestle with a tad of guilt - "survivor's remorse" maybe. If you are not familiar with T's story, do yourself a favor and buy a copy of his book. Like me you may weep by the rivers of Babylon the Greater for the ordeal Terry survived. Then take a moment to think of the THOUSANDS of other 18-year-olds who were convicts of conscience, JW or otherwise. Farkel was one too.
I doubt that anyone who has not faced this can grasp the level of stress this puts on a person. The Watchtower would take a position that they offered ABSOLUTELY NO advice to the 18-year old because they didn't want to find their butts warming Rutherford's cell in the Atlanta Penitentiary, but on the side they would tell you what YOU HAD TO DO to be approved by the Jehovah Sock Puppet. YOU must RESIST! YOU must NOT accept alternate service!
We were the mirror image of Billy Joel's song..
Hey T, love ya bro, and I'm sorry...
Happy (or at least "Indifferent" ) anniversary.
I guess for similar reasons of remorse over poor directions in my life, I don't really have good retention of anniversary dates related to coming into or getting out of the JW cult. I do remember my baptism date, but that's about it. But that one is rather tied in with so many other things.
The sneaky bastards also warned people like Terry that they could not under any circumstances tell the judge they had been advised not to accept alternative service. They also could not let the judge know (wink, wink) that they would perform the alternative service if sentenced to do so. They just couldn't agree to it beforehand.
I had a first cousin who had the same travesty foisted on him that Terry did. He did his time and was forever marked because of it. But an acquaintance of mine who was about the same age as Terry and my cousin lucked out. He actually got sentenced to alternative service and served his time as an orderly in a hospital. He did such a good job that they hired him as a supervisor when his time was up.
Same situation, same conscientious decision, but very different outcomes. This is the kind of crap that happens when self-appointed religious "leaders" impose their capricious interpretations of ancient fairy tales on innocent but susceptible followers.
Oh, Terry, you are WT history and a survivor. You stood tall for your belief system and just a very, young, man. Your brain not even developed at age 20 and there should have been a law protecting you. This is the kind of horror that makes me sick about war. I know guys that fled for Canada - a couple returned and the gov't was rounding them up and threw in prison for a limited time -- not two yrs. like you served. Can you sue the WT cult as they've flipflopped numerous times -- doubtful since JWs join willingly. Gotta love the laws that protect money-making cults. Makes me sick.
Thank you for kind words and genuine solidarity on this, my friends.
I remembered about an hour ago how Judge Brewster counseled me before sentencing.
This is a rough recall of what he said:
"I'm going to give you 10 days to change your mind, young man. I'm sending you to Tarrant County Jail to think this over. AT ANY TIME during those 10 days you change your mine--just send word to me and I will have you out of there and in a civilian hospital job inside of an hour."
Of course, the way I heard this was a huge Satanic test!
It's laughable now. Sort of.
Once I arrived at Seagoville Federal Correctional Institution, I discovered several other Brothers had been offered an ex-tend-ded "change your mine" proviso, too.
One of those Brothers actually DID change his mind in the middle of the night. (I think his name was A.C. Williams). He was outta there before morning.
This was taken pretty hard by the rest of us!
I later heard rumors about Brother Williams--but--I don't believe any of them so I won't repeat them here.
I view what he did as a sign of intelligence now. Back then? Ohhhh noooo.