"I worked with these dedicated and hard-working servants of God in their ministry..."
At the end of my sophomore year, a few of the ROTC upper classmen asked if I wanted to go to Airborne School with them. I thought, “Gee, that sounds like fun. Sure, I’d like to go.” I attended Airborne School at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and at the end of the 3 ½ week course, I earned my Airborne wings.
During my sophomore year, I found it very difficult to juggle my pre-med studies and wrestling. Therefore, at the start of my junior year, I decided not to wrestle, finishing a lackluster college career. A series of events led me to question my purpose, asking, “Why am I in school? What am I doing here?” I sensed a powerful call to Christian ministry and wondered, “How do I carry this out? Am I wasting my time here?” Against the advice of my loving, patient, and supportive parents, I left Notre Dame during my fifth semester, terminating my scholarship. I moved back home where I spent the next six months soul-searching, praying, and studying the Bible. This led me to Little Rock, Arkansas to work with Glen and Erma Miller, founders of Lake Hamilton Bible Camp, for a year.
I worked with these dedicated and hard-working servants of God in their ministry, on their campgrounds, and Bible Bookstore. All the while, they patiently mentored and taught me for the year I worked alongside them. I became one of “the boys”, a number of young men, who, over the years, came to work and live with them, some for months, others for a number of years.
After I returned home in 1977, I worked different jobs, at a health club, a nursing home, and a car wash. I resumed wrestling with renewed gusto and won Open (senior level) Freestyle State and Regional Tournaments. In January 1978, at the advice of our family doctor, Dr. Gilbert Maestas, “Dr. Gil”, a longtime friend of our family, to “Get on with it!” I made the decision to return to school and continue my pre-med studies. I’d come to the realization that Christian ministry and the practice of medicine were something that fit hand-in-glove, as embodied by Dr. Gil. I chose to transfer to Oral Roberts University (ORU) in Tulsa, Oklahoma starting the Fall Semester of 1978.
"Then I met Sherry, and she ruined my plans..."
I had a broken heart after a breakup with a young woman I was in love with, three years before I arrived at ORU. Believe you me, I had no intention of developing a serious relationship with any other young lady because my heart had finally mended. I thought, “Girls, who needs them? They take your time, your money, and your heart. Time. I need to study and get into medical school. Money. I don’t have any money. Heart. Forget it. No way. I am NOT going to give my heart away!” I tell others, “Then I met Sherry (Sharon J. Cooper), and she ruined my plans.”
Sherry and I started our relationship as academic chairmen of our respective brother-sister wings, planned study groups, and prayed together for our wing mates. This blossomed into a friendship, falling in love, and by November 1978, I asked Sherry to marry me. She readily agreed, and this led to two-and-half year courtship. We were married on May 30, 1981, a few weeks after I graduated. I tell others, “I was on the eight-year plan. They never said so, but I think my parents must have thought, ‘Thank You, thank You, thank You, LORD! Our son has finally graduated!’”
Classes began at the ORU School of Medicine on my birthday, August 3rd. I received a 4-Year Army Health Profession Scholarship to attend medical school. When I received my acceptance notice to medical school and then my notice of my scholarship, Sherry ran around telling everybody, “We’re going to medical school!” I told her, “Sherry, before we’re done, that will be the understatement of the year.” We survived four grueling years of medical school. During “our” third year of medical school, we welcomed our son, Adam into our family. He was born 7 ½ weeks prematurely, and medical problems ensued. After graduation, we moved to Canton, OH for an even more demanding internship and residency in Internal Medicine (adult medicine) where our second son, Christopher, and our daughter, Angeli, joined the family.