A letter of remembrance for Danny White
Murrieta Corps soldier promoted to Glory at 65.
By Glen Doss, Major –
Danny White is my brother in a special way—in Jesus Christ and in my heart. Today, as Philippians 3:20 reminds us, he is a citizen of Heaven along with me and all of you who have accepted Jesus. However, unlike you and me, he is literally present in Heaven at this very moment, smiling, listening to us, and looking on us.
You and I will join him eventually. Today, of course, we are away physically, but we will most certainly reunite with him—we will grasp Danny’s firm hand again, hug our brother’s neck and speak reminiscently of old times. My brother Danny inspired me as few others have, and I love him very, very much.
For seven months in 2007-2008, he was a beneficiary in our adult rehabilitation center (ARC) program. I was his chaplain. I counseled him. I prayed with him at the chapel altar and in my office. We had some good talks, and we grew together. Following is a brief article telling his story that I wrote about him in 2010 for New Frontier. It was titled “A man who beat the odds.”
“People used to tell me, ‘you’re rushing toward death.’ The things I did in my addiction shame me today,” Danny said. “Now I apply that same energy toward my new life.”
After catching his first prison term at age 18, prison was a “revolving door” for him, Danny said. By 2005 he had spent a total of 35 years behind bars. “I never allowed myself to stay out long enough to learn to take life on life’s terms,” he says. “Three years ago God showed me I can have a better way of life with him.”
Growing up in the San Gabriel Valley of California, Danny’s life was hard. “My father, a heavy drinker, hit me with everything from a switch to an extension cord,” he says. “And he beat my mother. I hated him until he died.
My mother tried to instill the love of God in my older brother, my younger sister and me, even taking us to church when we were small. But I never developed a connection with God.”
When police escorted him home for shoplifting at age 9, Danny said he learned a lesson: don’t get caught. By age 14, he was huffing inhalants and two years later injecting barbiturates. Losing interest, he dropped out of school. His parents divorced that year, and, as his mother struggled to provide for the family, Danny began stealing car stereos to fund his drug habit. By the time he was sentenced to the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco at age 18, he already had a string of felonies on his record.
Released nine months later, he returned to his old behavior and soon thereafter discovered heroin which remained his drug of choice for 27 years. The legal charges grew more serious—they included armed robbery and kidnapping. “The addiction cuts off the pathway from the head to the heart,” Danny said, “so you can’t make a connection.”
He did five more prison terms, ranging in length from 18 months to more than nine years. “I never stayed out long enough to learn to take life on life’s terms,” he said. “It was easy to accept the prison life because I always had the drug there to comfort me. Of course, it takes the money you don’t have, leading to conflict, such as stabbings over drug debts. I learned through trial and error that if you give your word, you’re going to do something, you
“Walking the prison yard those last days I thought a lot. There weren’t many options for somebody like me—who had spent his whole life in prison. ‘What are my odds?’ I asked myself. But I made a commitment that somehow, some way, I was going to stay clean.”
In November 2005 on orders from his parole agent, Danny checked into the Riverside County ARC in Perris, Calif. However, a few months after completing the six-month residential program, his old addictive thinking returned. He relapsed, but soon afterward surrendered himself to his sponsor, his work supervisor, and his parole agent. He asked—and was accepted—to re-enter the ARC program.
But, first things first. Soon Danny was walking the yard in Chino, fulfilling a five-month commitment to the prison system, but this time with a whole new mindset. “I’m doing this time as a Christian,” he told himself and for the first time, he stayed clean in prison.
Danny returned to the ARC a different man. At The Salvation Army Wildwood Ranch retreat, he was one of a small group of ARC delegates who tackled the steep ascent to the cross. “I had just begun the hike when I felt chest pains,” he recalls. However, despite the pain, he persevered to the top.
Later at the hospital he was diagnosed with a mild heart attack and strongly encouraged to quit smoking. “But if the dope was my left arm, the cigarette was my right arm,” he notes. Danny had learned that belonging to a church family was essential to recovery.
At the spring, 2008, ARC sobriety dinner, he confided in Major LeAnn Trimmer, Murrieta corps officer: “I want to be a soldier real bad. But I’ve got to kick these cigarettes.” She suggested a “disciple’s fast,” Danny said.
He listened carefully and in December 2008, was enrolled as a Murrieta Corps soldier. His prayers for employment were answered when he was hired as the corps custodian.
An avid Narcotics Anonymous twelve-stepper, today Danny assists in leading a weekly meeting at the ARC and sponsors some of the men. “I have to stay busy in my recovery,” he insists, “because I want to keep this victory that had eluded me for so long. I’m on a downward-going escalator. I may be facing the right direction, trying to do the right thing, but if I’m not taking positive steps upward in my recovery, that escalator is going to take me down.
I used to be all in for my addiction, but today I’m all in for God.”
That’s the story I wrote. I trust it communicates just how committed our brother Danny White was to serving others in the name of Jesus Christ. He was so very grateful for what God did for him that he had no choice but to reach out in service. After accepting Christ, following His leading and relying on him for the power to turn his life around, Danny gave all he had in service to other men whom
God had rescued from that same dark place. He took Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:8 quite literally: “Freely you have received, freely give.” And so Danny did, giving again and again and again, with all the energy in him. As long as he could physically hold out, our brother Danny White gave of himself in service to others, in his church, in the recovery community, to his family and friends. He gave over and over and over, until God eventually brought him home to Heaven.
When I visited him in the hospital just a few weeks ago, with a huge smile on his face, Danny spoke of “greener pastures.” He knew his Lord was calling him home. At that point in his life, he had no regrets at all—he knew Jesus was taking him to be with him in Heaven, and that was sufficient for him. He was completely at peace. When I visited him at his home a few days later, he was quite obviouslygreatly suffering physically, but I saw no sorrow in his spirit—he knew the time of transition was imminent, and he was departing gracefully.
I love you, Danny, so very, very much. Thank you for the good times we had together. I will give you a big bear hug one day, brother. See you soon.
Your brother in Jesus Christ,
Glen Doss, Major