Sunday, May 27, 2018

It's Memorial Day behind bars, too


I love Memorial Day.

When I was a kid, back in the 30s and 40s, it was often referred to as Decoration Day. I did some checking on that, and found this:

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

The parades on Memorial Day were somber events back then. People didn’t clap, and bands didn’t play. Soldiers and sailors marched. I remember seeing quiet weeping among bystanders as military units passed by.

Many years later, as a radio station owner and manager, I did my best to make this a special day for our listeners. No up-tempo music and fun lingo. Instead, meaningful commentaries and appropriate music.

Two careers later, I’m working with prisoners on a daily basis, but my Memorial Day focus is still the same. Nationwide, about 8% of the prison population is made up of military veterans. Here in Michigan, the percentage is slightly lower. We have about 1,900 vets in Michigan’s 32 prisons. About 5%. I’m thinking of them today.

Researchers have listed three major factors that send returning veterans to our prisons: alcohol and drugs, difficulty adjusting to civilian life, and economic disadvantages.

The purpose of my piece today is not to delve into the problems. Those who are veterans, or who personally know veterans, will not be surprised that these issues sometimes result in problems. And those problems sometimes result in incarceration.

I just want to say that while enjoying picnics, boating, swimming, fireworks and family holiday fun, take time to remember the importance, and yes, the solemnity of the day. Give thanks not only for those who paid the ultimate price, but also to all veterans, all still serving, and then offer a special prayer for those veterans now residing behind bars.

Many are feeling lonely, unloved, un-thanked, unappreciated, and unwanted today. May God be near them. Their present circumstances do nothing to diminish the value of their contributions to our nation and the freedoms we enjoy.

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!
Maya Angelou

Never was so much owed by so many to so few
–Winston Churchill