“My Testimony” is a series of personal stories from ordinary people who have have been used by God to do mighty things.
This is Allen De Vos. He served in the United States Marine Corps but it was a moment on a motorcycle in 1989 that changed his life forever. This is Allen’s story.
I was raised in a small town in NW Iowa. My parents divorced when I was 1 ½ and remarried just before my 12th birthday. Our family grew from 2 kids to 6 eventually – and I was the oldest. We had a typical childhood. We always had jobs: delivering newspapers, mowing lawns & any odd jobs our parents had for us to do around the house.
My mother worked outside of the house and my father had a life/health insurance business. My dad was gone a lot for work, so as I became involved in sports, I gravitated toward my coaches for guidance. I wasn’t a very good student at all. In fact, I did the bare minimum in my classes, but always enough that I was able to stay eligible for sports. I had the same mindset in my approach to my faith. We attended church every Sunday, youth group and other church things. We were involved, but I didn’t really have a connection to my own faith journey.
The summer before my junior year of high school (1985) I enrolled in the Delayed Entry Program with the United States Marine Corps. I knew 2 things: I wasn’t ready for college and I wanted to get out of Iowa! I graduated in 1987 and was off to boot camp. Boot camp and MOS school were in California. March 1988 I was given orders to my first duty station – Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Experiencing what I thought was “real freedom” for the first time in my life, I stopped going to church and drifted from my faith. I made new friends and those guys were into motorcycles. In October, I bought my first bike – a 1986 Suzuki Intruder. I enjoyed riding with the guys and more “freedom” that you get with riding.
I didn’t know this, but my life was about to change on Wednesday, March 22, 1989. I had been in Charlotte the night before with a friend & we were riding my motorcycle back to base & work. Just before 8:00 AM on the 22nd we stopped at a gas station in Burgaw, NC. After fueling up and grabbing a cup of coffee, we headed out onto Highway 53 for the short ride to Camp Lejeune. Highway 53 is a divided 2-lane highway. As we travelled down the road a semi approached. Just as we met the semi, a light blue 1980 Monte Carlo pulled out to pass the truck. With nowhere to go, the car slammed into the right side of my motorcycle, crushing my right leg, snapping my right femur and slamming me to the pavement with enough force to put a 6” crack in my helmet. My friend, Troy, slammed into the windshield of the car and was hurled through the air and onto the side of the road.
We were admitted to New Hanover Hospital in Wilmington, NC to be treated for our injuries. When a doctor called my parents late that night, dad asked him to “tell it like it is – how bad is it?” The reply on the other end of the line was, “Your son might not be alive in the morning.” My parents flew out the next day. The doctors tried their best to save my leg, but were unable to.
On Easter Sunday, March 26 – my right leg was amputated about 5 inches below the knee.
I was angry about a lot of things – having to learn to walk again, moving back home with my parents and not having a motorcycle to ride among them. I spent a total of 8 weeks in various hospitals on my journey back to Iowa. During my stay in the hospital, a retired Marine friend of mine visited and we read scripture. We were led to Psalm 116. In my Bible it was titled “A Man Saved From Death Praises God.” Very fitting considering all that had happened!
My recovery was fairly remarkable. I was fitted for a prosthesis during the summer of 1989, began college in the fall and was playing basketball with the guys by the spring of 1990. I was a happy-go-lucky guy to everyone I met, but privately I was a mess, although I didn’t know it at the time. I moved into my own place. I spent a lot of time at the local bar where I self-medicated with whiskey. I had always struggled to express my anger appropriately. I wasn’t going to start now. I began dating a girl who grew up across the street from me. We were married in May 1993. In October 1994 our son, Matt, was born. Things were looking up for me, but I was still a mess. We divorced in 1998. We were both responsible for events that led to it, but I know now that my anger was a huge factor it. There are times I wish that someone would have pointed me to a good counselor before all of these things happened, but I probably wouldn’t have gone or listened.
The summer of 1998 a teacher friend of mine and I were talking about Vacation Bible School activities. During that conversation, he convinced me that I should look into finishing my Bachelor’s degree and become a teacher. I listened to him. I graduated with my Elementary Ed/Special Ed degree. I began teaching special needs in my hometown (Paullina, IA) in 2000 and stayed until 2015. I coached football, basketball and track. In 2015, I moved to St. Augustine, FL. I’m teaching middle school special needs students and coaching high school football and basketball. It’s been a long journey and I still make mistakes, but I enjoy a very active lifestyle and love to share my story when I can.
My experiences teaching and coaching helped me to understand where my anger was coming from and to finally come to a place where I can honestly say that I feel good about things. And yes, I still ride motorcycles.
1 I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.
2 Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell got hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
4 Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
6 The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.
7 Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.
8 For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
9 I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
10 I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted:
11 I said in my haste, All men are liars.
12 What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?
13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.
14 I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
16 O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.
18 I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people,
19 In the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord.