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In August 1961, I enlisted in the United States Army. Though only 15 years old, the army accepted me under a juvenile court order, as I would be turning 16 in November.

Little did I know at age 15 that military service was so demanding, more demanding than the orphanage in which I had been raised. I understood that Basic Training was going to be tough, but after that I was under the impression one would have some freedoms, that one would be able to have some sort of a free life and be able to make their own decisions.

After my Basic Training was completed, I was assigned to Bassett Army Hospital in Fairbanks, Alaska. Within two months, I had been trained as an OB Technician and was working on the ward in the nursery and the delivery room helping deliver babies.

One evening after my shift ended, I changed clothes and took the military bus to the downtown area. As I stepped off the bus, I saw a young lady come walking out of the Alaska National Bank. Even to this day, I do not know what came over me at that very moment. I just stood with my mouth wide open. It was a feeling I cannot describe in words. It was as if every sorrow and pain I had ever experienced had been lifted from my shoulders. It was a feeling I had never felt in my entire life.

Being a very shy and somewhat withdrawn individual did not seem to be a part of me anymore. I seemed to instantly change for some strange reason. I just walked up to the girl and introduced myself. As the conversation progressed, I learned that she was the head teller at the bank. We talked for about 30 minutes and then she told me she had to leave because she had another appointment. I then asked her if I might take her to dinner sometime. She agreed and gave me her telephone number.

After she and I parted, I was on cloud nine. I had never known that such a wonderful feeling even existed. I no longer walked down the street. I was skipping and laughing, and acting as though I did not have a care in the world. It was a wonderful feeling to know that I could finally feel something inside myself.

Maggie and I started dating several weeks later. It was all that I could do to stay on the job. My every waking moment had to be spent with her. My every thought was about her and how wonderful she made me feel. It was the very first time in my life that I felt free and totally alive. Little did I know that wonderful feeling was going to be my downfall.

At first I started leaving work early. Then I started pretending to be sick so I could get to town to see Maggie. Within several weeks, I was not showing up for work at all. No matter what my friends or co-workers told me about being irresponsible, I just would not listen to them.

"They just could not understand how powerful this feeling is," I thought. The next thing I knew, I was being disciplined and ordered confined to my barrack under an Article 15. No matter what the company commander said or did to me, I always found a way to see Maggie. If I were confined to Fort Wainwright, I would have her snuck onto the base. I would then meet and talk with her in the hospital parking lot or in the hospital lobby. The feelings that I had for her were so over powering that I just could not control them.

One evening, I was ordered to report to Captain Hubbard's office. I was told that Maggie was related to Ted Stevens, an Alaskan big shot and he was forbidding me to every see her again. I was ordered to cease seeing her immediately. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. There was no way anyone on the face of this earth was going to deprive me of what I had found in my life. I had already made up my mind that I was going to marry Maggie, no matter what anyone said to me.

From the age of 6 to 15, I had been forbidden to speak to any girl in the orphanage or in school. I was free for the first time in my life. I made up my mind that no matter what, no one was ever again going to tell me whom I could or could not talk to.

Within 60 days, I found myself standing before a Summary Court Martial Board. I was sentenced to six months hard labor at the stockade in Fort Richardson in Anchorage.

I will never forget seeing Maggie standing alone and crying at the airport. I just could not understand why everything had gone so wrong. I was handcuffed, led aboard an airplane and off I flew to serve my six months hard labor sentence.

Believe me, it was hard labor. I chopped down trees and cleared land in 20 below zero temperatures. No matter what I was told to do, I followed every order to the tee. But every second of every minute was spent thinking about nothing, except Maggie. That was the one thing they could not take away from me.

I was returned to Fort Wainwright after four and a half months in the brig. The first thing I did was to find Maggie and asked her to marry me. Captain Hubbard soon found out that she and I had gone to the Court House and filed for a marriage license. I was once again held for a Court Martial Hearing. An order was placed for my immediate discharge, because I had disobeyed a direct order. I was stripped of my rank and placed on an airplane headed back to Jacksonville, Florida where I had originally enlisted. Within six months, I made my way back to Alaska where I married Maggie.

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