Kleckner was assigned to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. He married his childhood sweetheart and settled down. But he continued getting into trouble. He began smoking marijuana and drinking more heavily. Still, he managed to be honorably discharged from the Army after his two year-term was up.
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The Kleckners moved back to Perry County, and that's when Bill got deeply involved in criminal activity.
"Was really starting to live an outlaw-type life. Heavily involved in marijuana usage, marijuana sales, marijuana transportation," he said. "During that time, I went to the penitentiary. Was convicted of a violation of the federal arms act and criminal trespassing. I did 7 1/2 months of a 2 1/2 year stint. Got out. But got more involved in criminal activity."
Kleckner got a tip that he was about to be arrested again, and he left his wife and two sons in Pennsylvania and headed west with a van and his auto-repair tools. He found he had a knack for auto repair.
"I was a natural at automotive repair," he said. "I could tear apart transmissions. Electrical things made sense to me. Mechanical things made sense to me."
Eventually, Kleckner ended up in Texas again. His family joined him in Dallas, but life became pretty unstable. He got involved in more serious drug use, was in and out of jail and joined an outlaw bike gang. But even for a biker, Kleckner was extreme.
"I was in fights all the time," he said. "And the gang I was hanging with didn't like the things I was doing, either. They knew if I got busted, it would lead to them."
Kleckner left and settled in San Angelo, Texas. He got a job repairing cars. His wife and sons joined him. Life settled down. For a few months.
"I found the same kind of people I'd been hanging with," he said. "I got in a fight with my boss. Wound up in jail again. This was in 1985, and I was ready to end my life."
Did a 180
Just seven years out of the Army, Kleckner said he knew his life was a shambles. He said he was basically living on drugs and alcohol. He began having nightmares that left him shaking. He didn't like where his life was heading.
And then, his wife found religion.
"My wife got born again in the Salvation Army church. With my dope dealer's wife," Kleckner said. "This is really a God thing here."
But Kleckner wouldn't have any of it. He wouldn't listen to anyone talk about God. With one exception.
"The only one who could witness to me was my second son," Kleckner said. "I'd be sitting in my recliner, stoned out of my mind, and he'd come up to me and say, 'Daddy, do you know Jesus?' And I just couldn't say anything. I just sit there crying."
It all came to a head on a Sunday in mid-November.
"On Nov. 18, 1985, I was ready to end my life," he recalled. "I was mad because the wife wasn't home from church yet. I was flicking through the channels. And there was this preacher just blew into town, and I wanted to burn this guy's church down. 'Cause he was a nut(case)."
Kleckner left the house after a blowup with his wife. He barely remembers whether he made it back home. But he woke with another nightmare and woke up determined to end life as he knew it — one way or another.
Even though he was a skeptic, Kleckner thought he'd give God a chance. His boss at the car repair shop was a Christian, so Kleckner nervously went to his boss' church.