Wilmoth Irving was a ray of sunshine in the lives of Jackie and David. Before the pair had met Wilmoth, all they had known was misery and despair.Even when they had money and live in abundance, their lives were a living hell defined by trauma. When they successfully escaped Trunnis, poverty hit them like a vagabond. Even though they were free from Trunnis, David notes that their dysfunction was PTSD level and financial challenges were the norm. Wilmoth met Jackie when David was in the fourth grade and became a source of stability in their lives. Wilmoth was a successful carpenter and a general contractor in Indianapolis. He donned a warm smile and Jackie was attracted to his easy smile and laid-back approach to life. Wilmoth was not overbearing and allowed both Jackie and David to explore their strengths and live a free life. For the first time in a long time, Jackie was radiant and smiled a lot. Wilmoth made Jackie regain her pride and feel beautiful again.
Wilmoth became the father figure in David’s life and filled the fatherly void that David had never experienced before. David notes that even though he did not coddle him and tell him that he loved him, he was always present in his life. Additionally, Wilmoth was a basketball fanatic and this endeared him more to David as he loved basketball and he attributed it as the major reason that he befriended his best friend Johnny Nichols. Wilmoth took his time to play with the boys, taught David various basketball moves, and tuned up his defensive discipline. Soon the three of them became so fond of each other that they celebrated birthdays and holidays together. Wilmoth had quickly become a pillar in David’s life.
When David was in the eighth grade, Wilmoth decided to ask Jackie to marry him and become a permanent feature in the lives of David and Jackie. Since Wilmoth stayed in Indianapolis, they planned to move in with him in the summer. David and Jackie looked forward to city life once again and even though Wilmoth was not as rich as Trunnis, he lived a decent life. However, everything in their lives came to a grinding halt in December 1989. Wilmoth had come to spend Christmas with them at his grandparents’ house in Brazil as they prepared to move to Indianapolis. Wilmoth even invited David to play in one of his basketball game as a substitute to one of his teammates. David was so thrilled that he packed his bags two days in advance to attend the game but on the morning that they were to leave, Wilmoth changed his mind much to David’s disappointment. Being a caring father figure, Wilmoth quickly noted the disappointment shown on David’s face and reassured him that in a few days’ time they will have moved to Indianapolis and he would play basketball with him.
Wilmoth proceeded to his car and drove off to his basketball men’s league game. Little did David and Jackie know that it the last time that they would see him alive. Wilmoth went to his game that night as planned and he was done he proceeded to his house that he fondly referred to as ‘house with the two lions’ due to the fact that the house’s driveway was framed by two white lion sculptures elevated on pillars. As usual, he pulled into the garage from where he could directly access the house. Oblivious of the danger that lurked in the darkness, Wilmoth did not close his garage door — this was his usual behavior. As he got out of the driver’s seat, he was shot five times on the chest and a final bullet directly between his eyes. His assailants disappeared into the darkness and left him for the dead.
It wasn't until the following morning that Wilmots was found dead in his garage by his own father. Wilmoth’s father lived a few blocks away and as he was driving past the house, he saw his son’s garage door open and stopped to investigate what was happening only to find his dead body. Wilmoth was just forty-three years old and his death shook David and Jackie to the core. Wilmoth’s mother broke the unfortunate news to David’s grandmother via a phone call when David was around. David did not take the news well and he punched the refrigerator leaving a dent in it. The hardest part for David and his grandmother was to break the unfortunate news to Jackie who was already startled by the fact that she could not reach Wilmoth over the phone. Jackie could not believe the news that Wilmoth was dead as she convinced herself that this was one of Wilmoth’s many pranks. Still in denial, Jackie packed her bags including a dress for the funeral and left for Wilmoth’s house.
On arrival, the house was draped in yellow police tape and it dawned on Jackie that this was real and not a prank. Jackie and David ducked under the tape and into the active crime scene. Surprisingly, their presence did not bother the police officers at the scene David succinctly notes that there was still blood on the garage door. The police even allowed Jackie to spend the night at Wilmoth’s house and to prevent any repeat attacks, her brother-in-law stayed over as well and watched guard with two guns. David, however, spend the night at Wilmoth’s sister’s place. The author recounts that the experience was far from comfortable as the house was spooky and dark, and the television only had three channels that were static free. David put on the news and every thirty minutes, they showed a clip of Jackie and him ducking under the police tape and watching Wilmoth’s lifeless body being wheeled away. This led David to experience deep emotional and psychological pain as the footage was replayed over and over.
After the funeral, David and Jackie were in a limbo, as they were not decided on whether to remain in Brazil or move to Indianapolis as previously planned. David was still grieving and Jackie was still in a state of shock. Even though Jackie had not cried about Wilmoth’s death, she was emotionally vacant as she was in a deep emotional abyss. With regards to David, school was around the corner and he had to grasp for any semblance of normal in order to cope. Wilmoth’s death rekindled tragic memories that David had experienced a year earlier. In particular, he vividly replayed the images of a young boy being crushed to death by a bus at school. Traumatized, David could not sleep in bed anymore and resorted to sleeping on the ground as he believed that he could find solace somewhere where there was no risk of falling. Jackie was facing similar challenges as she abandoned her bed and instead slept in her armchair. Since the two were in need of a fresh start, they decided to move to Indianapolis even after the death of Wilmoth.
In Indianapolis, Jackie enrolled David in North Central High School, which was in a predominantly black neighborhood. David was still cheating his way through school and he vividly remembers that his first day of school, despite being dressed like a “white boy,” he was respected because he could play ball. During his sophomore year, David's main concern was being cool. As such, his wardrobe was greatly influenced by hip-hop culture and he associated with the gang bangers in the neighborhood. His stay in Indianapolis was cut short, however, when Jackie found him with ten “thugs” in the house and she decided time had come for their return to Brazil, Indiana.
Back in Brazil, David was enrolled at Northview High School. His oversized clothing and hip hop inspired dressing made him stand out in the crowd. David notes that he purposefully looked different to perpetuate the notion that he had changed as a person, which wasn’t really true. The basketball team staff did not appreciate his sense of style and handed him a tight uniform to practice with. Furthermore, David’s on-pitch attitude and trash-talking ways from Indianapolis was not appreciated by his coaches and team and he was castigated for it. The only good thing that David liked in Indiana was reuniting with his best friend, Johnny Nichols, who was by now a star player on the team. It was no surprise that Johnny made it to the varsity squad but it came as a shocker that David barely made it to the junior varsity team after the trials.
David’s return to Indiana exposed him to various racial slurs as he saw the vile and nasty side of Indiana residents. On one occasion, David and his cousin were walking to his grandmother’s house dressed in their hip hop inspired clothes when redneck teenagers slowed down in their truck and called them “niggers.” One teenager even jumped out of the vehicle with a pistol pointed strait at David’s face aggressively asking them where they were from and what they were doing in town. A second event that occurred in public greatly embarrassed David. He was hanging out with Johnny and some girls, include one named Pam who was interested in him. When Pam’s father saw David, he stormed toward his daughter and told her never to hang with the “nigger” again. These incidents opened David’s eyes to the world of racism in his hometown.
The racism extended into the classroom where David was subjected to racial insults and slurs. David recalls a classmate drawing a picture of a person being hanged on his workbook with the message “Niger we’re gonna kill you!” David was so annoyed that he stormed out of the Spanish class and headed straight to the principal’s office to echo his disappointment. There was nothing much that the principal could do to stop the racist attacks and they instead just sought to console David not to be taken aback by the ignorant abuses. This did not sit well with David as he felt all alone and always a target for racist slurs. It is important to note that Southern Indiana was a hotbed of racism at this time in history.
For his sixteenth birthday, David received a brown Chevy Citation from his grandfather. When someone spray painted the word “nigger” on the driver’s side door, he was pushed over the edge. Filled with much hatred and realizing that he could not fight the entire world, David fell back to Black Nationalism. He repeatedly listened to Malcom X’s speeches and further embraced a lifestyle that many racists feared such as wearing baggy clothes and playing loud music from his car. David did all these things to get a reaction out of the people who hated him most. This epitomized his shallow way of life as he was full of pain and had no real purpose in life.
Despite this difficult time in his life, David clutched to just one straw of hope. He dreamed of joining the Civil Air Patrol, inspired by his grandfather who had served as a cook in the Air Force for thirty-seven years. David starting joining weekly meetings with the members of the Civil Air Patrol. It is from these meetings that he became fascinated with Pararescue and so he decided to attend the Pararescue Jump Orientation Course during the summer before his freshman year. Being fascinated by the military had its own consequences, as David was no longer interested in his academics. Unfortunately, this led to him miserably failing the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. When he tried to cheat, he realized that each person was answering a different set of questions, hence he had no choice but to rely on his own knowledge.
While getting involved with Pararescue, David discovered and greatly identified with the story of Scott Gearen. Scott was involved in a nasty accident during training and died twice on the operating table only to be brought back to life by medics. After his operation, he was told that he would never be a Pararescue-man again. Eighteen months later, he defied medical odds, made a full recovery, and was back on the job he loved. This enduring spirit spoke to David’s heart as Scott had survived the impossible and pursued what he loved. With regards to David, he too had gone through bad experiences in his life and wanted to conquer his past and chart a new future.
As David’s grades plummeted his attitude towards his mother changed. He started seeing himself as being able to survive without her. One day, David decided ignore his curfew and stay at Johnny’s place for some days, but soon, his money ran out. He then received a letter from his school stating that he would not graduate if he continued failing in his class. David came home that day and headed straight to the shower. He looked at himself in the mirror and did not like what he saw. He decided he needed to face the truth, which was that only he could solve his problems and blaming his life circumstances for his failures was not an excuse. David committed to this full transformation as he shaved his head, changed his dressing style, adopted a positive attitude, and started working towards realizing his goals. He started studied hard with the help of a tutor and eventually, David graduated and passed the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test on the third attempt. David also started physical training and was able to successfully face many of his previous fears such as running along the street where the redneck teenager with the pistol has previously threatened him.