Story by John Raughter, Photos by Clay Lomneth
The motto for American Legion George D. Vickery Post 608 in Pendleton, Ind., is “Veterans striving to preserve honor once lost.”
The motto isn’t referring to all veterans. It refers to veterans that are incarcerated. Post 608 is located inside the maximum security wing of the Pendleton Correctional Facility. Legionnaires and Sons of The American Legion members hosted National Commander Dale Barnett during his visit to the facility on July 31.
The commander’s delegation, which included Indiana Department Commander James May, first stopped for an official welcome and program at the Andrew J. Cummins Post 503,held in the chapel of the facility’s minimum security section.
“Many of these veterans would not be here if they received treatment for post traumatic stress before they made their mistakes,” May said. “They try to give back to society. They do an outstanding job of supporting American Legion programs and raising funds.”
The support provided also benefits the self-esteem of post members. “It motivates us to get out of our negative atmosphere and leave the past in the past,” said Post 503 Commander James Clements, a veteran of the U.S. Navy.
Clements credits food sales as a key component in the ability of posts to raise funds inside correctional facilities. His post presented Barnett with a $1,503 check for the National Emergency Fund (NEF), a program which assists Legion Family members impacted by natural disasters.
“In The American Legion, it’s all volunteer. You don’t have to do what you do,” Barnett said to Post 503 members. “You do it because you still want to serve your country and that matters. What is in the obituaries of most veterans? It’s usually a photo of when they served in the military. It is what they are most proud of. Freedom is not free and our nation needs The American Legion. They need you.”
“You guys served your country honorably, and we appreciate that,” added Correctional Industrial Facility Superintendent Wendy Knight. “Just because you are here does not mean you still don’t have something to contribute.”
Post 608 Commander William Dion Baxter presented Barnett with a $1,216 donation that his post raised for the NEF. “Even though we’re behind these walls, we believe in helping the community beyond these walls,” Baxter said.
A local high school scholarships and arts department, Special Olympics, the Salvation Army and the Indiana Warrior Alliance are just some of the many charities that the post has supported.
Barnett praised the Department of Indiana for its support of the 10 posts that are located inside state and federal correctional facilities across the Hoosier state.
“I hope your life is enriched because of your membership in The American Legion,” Barnett said to Post 608 members. “I’m passionate about this organization. Thank you for being a part of it.”
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