A Memorial Day first — and an unforgettable moment

Published 9:51 am Saturday, May 29, 2010

On Wednesday, May 26, I attended a Memorial Day program like no other I have ever experienced.

Traditionally we think of services at the city cemetery or in your church. Lots of flowers on graves, many adorned with flags of the wars in which men and women served our country.

Attendees may be dressed in Veterans of Foreign Wars, Veterans of Vietnam War or American Legion caps, with pins of remembered experiences.

Flags throughout the town remind us of those brave men and women who served our country and bought our freedom, some with the ultimate price: their very lives.

But Wednesday was a different service — a first for me, but never to be forgotten.

This service was in an air-conditioned gym; all attendees were in crisp uniforms; and each attendee was there because of love of country and grateful for freedom and blessings of the land.

They were mostly veterans of some form of military service.

For them, life had taken a different twist somewhere along the way, and the freedom they fought for and still cherish has been put on hold — for some, several years; for others, many years — yet they still cherish this great country.

These men are residents of Deerfield Correctional Center in Capron. Now they patiently serve their time and pay their debt to society, anxiously awaiting a chance to re-enter society and feel the freedom they fought to secure.

All seem to be remorseful for the events that placed them at Deerfield, while some are frustrated with believing they have been falsely accused and convicted of crimes they did not commit.

But all are patriotic men who love their country and would fight to defend it again.

To hear Vets United sing patriotic songs with emotions written all across their faces, and to see them lead us in the National Anthem with such stirring emotion, is an experience I will never forget.

Most of these men are in training classes, Bible study groups and self-help groups, putting their lives back together. Their lives are being changed, and it is certainly reflected in their voluntary gathering of veterans to celebrate Memorial Day in a very reverent and significant way.

Warden Keith W. Davis and staff are supportive of the Vietnam Veterans Association, Chapter 682, which meets every Friday evening to support one another and nurture their patriotic spirits. Under impressive leadership, this group organized and sponsored the Memorial Service.

We can all learn a lesson in patriotism from men who fought for freedom, defended our way of life, and then lost it through various criminal activities.

With regret, remorse and transformation, these men anxiously await to taste freedom once again. I will always remember lessons learned this Memorial Day weekend taught by those who fought for freedom, lost it and work to regain it.

I hope each of us will remember our heritage and sacrifices made by men, women and families that we might enjoy the freedoms of this land envisioned by our founding fathers.

Take time this weekend to remember, be thankful and, whenever possible, thank our men and women in uniform for their service defending our freedoms.