Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. Hebrews 13:3 (NASB)
By Bobby R. Henry, Sr.
As I begin to write this article I want to be perfectly clear that I’m not condoning nor am I advocating for a “get out of jail free card” for those who have committed acts of violence and crimes perpetrated against any individual, business, government or personal property by anyone or group that represent a segment of our society.
I had the privilege of celebrating Memorial Day at one of our state’s correctional facilities with an audience of approximately 57 Honorably Discharged veterans, some of who are now serving three months to two life sentences.
These veterans, all of them have Honorable Discharges representing every branch of our armed forces.
There are thousands of our military veterans in prison systems across the United States. These men and women have served our country with dignity, integrity and reverence while surrendering their time fighting for our freedom; the freedom that many of us take for granted each and every day.
These same men and women who were willing to die for this system of democracy have made mistakes that have taken away their freedom and in a lot of cases their dignity for what may be an eternity.
We as human beings make mistakes each and every day. Some of us just make greater mistakes than others.
While my time spent with these veterans was short lived, the profound affect that I’m left with will be a fevering reminder that we all have an unsettling duty to those who served for our right to be free. And they lived the ‘Soldier’s Creed.
As the Dade C. I. Veteran’s Memorial Day unfolded, I could see in the faces of those military men-they were proud to be Veterans. To see the respect that they showed as the Colors were being presented, i.e. the correct cadence, precision, the erectness in those who could stand; chin up, chest out, shoulders back and stomach in. It all came together in the manner in which they saluted. It made me proud to be in the midst of these comrades. Just for a moment we were all one.
“With honor and gratitude we remember.” The remembrance of men and women who gave their lives that all may be free… this saying graced the front of the program and it was the demeanor of the time I spent there.
There are small groups that help these veterans in many ways and from what I was told, not all prisons have programs to help these men and women. There are many challenges that face our incarcerated Honorably Discharged veterans. Some of these veterans are just trying to send letters home to their families and loved ones yet they have no way to get stationary or stamps. Others are trying to better themselves by taking college classes but have to stop because they can no longer pay for their classes.
Most of these veterans are doing everything they can to ensure that when they get out of prison they do not return.
In the words written about the program (by Mr. Floyd Brooks) states the mission of the Veterans of Dade Correctional Institute: The mission of this chapter, is to provided service for Veterans, to improve the public perception of incarcerated veterans, and provide a setting for veterans to socialize. The program proposes to rehabilitate and restore the minds and moral character that was installed within us through our various branches of military service. In doing so, this program shall raise mentors for the Department of Corrections and the communities, and who will serve with pride and “spirit de corps”.
Inside the program reads: Ladies and gentlemen, many military branches of service men and women have protected, served, dedicated their minds body and souls, rendering their lives for humanity and our country and others on foreign soil. In bedded memories of their “pain” through “books”, “pictures”, and “magazines” of past and present wars.
Memorialized Icons for us, of countless documented millions of United States veterans that have paved the way through their efforts. Today… we honor and remember those men and women from all over the world. From WWI, WWII, to Desert Storm, Afghanistan, to the C.I.A.-covert missions never heard of , seen, or told. M.I.A., those missing in action within POW camps, on foreign soil. This Memorial today is for all of them. SPEICAL OPS* TUNNEL RATS* NAVY SEALS*GREEN BERETS*RANGERS*AMERICAN SNIPERS*HELICOPTER &FIGHTER PILOTS* All the way back to the BUFFALO SOLDIERS* TUSKEGEE AIRMAN* MARINE RECON, and stories never heard of or told. Let’s not forget, those buried within the National Cemetery abroad, all over the world. You may know someone, you may have lost a friend,*relative, *son, *or daughter. The unknown from different branches, hundreds of thousands, companies of veterans etched in stone upon marble buried in Arlington National Cemetery. “You are not forgotten”!
To all of our Military veterans who are incarnated at DCI, I want to thank each of you who were willing to give your life for me and allowed me to share in a part of your life. I would like to extended a heartwarming thank you to Learie L. Alford, Floyd Brooks and Mr. Pablo Rivera; had it not been for you all listening to God I never would have experienced such a meaningful Memorial Day-Thank You.