On December 17th, 2019, selected alumni of W.W.H. attended a Veterans’ banquet at the Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, Louisiana.
Having little to no information and not knowing what to expect, my wife and I drove to Jackson. On our way there we were trying to speculate as to what exactly we had gotten ourselves involved in.
When we drove up to the main entrance we were greeted by a guard who asked if we had guns, knives, drugs, or alcohol. We were instructed that our cell phones, cameras and any recording devices had to be locked in our car. We were only allowed to bring our ID and the keys to our truck into the “facility”.
We walked to a gate and were buzzed in. While standing in what seemed to have the appearance of a cage we then preceded in to the walkway. When we entered the walkway a guard pointed us to the next door we were to enter.
We walked down the caged-in walkway with prisoners who were going the same direction as us. We were then instructed to stand in front of a door, and several seconds later we were buzzed in. Once inside of the room where the banquet was to take place, I was floored.
Tables were beautifully decorated, prisoners were seated, and others were working as waiters. What I noticed was just how polite everyone was and how they strived to do everything with excellence. I was impressed. The meal we had surprised me as well. I was not expecting such good quality food inside of a prison.
The opening ceremonies were amazing. The National Anthem was played on a guitar and Taps was played on a trombone! The marching on of the Colors was surprising, precise and smart. The service at our table was comparable to some of the best restaurants in New Orleans.
While listening to the key speakers, I then realized that this program for the Veterans was very unique and successful. I was so caught up in the rich atmosphere of the banquet that I forgot I was in a correctional facility.
The Veterans in this facility raise money for the local food bank, single moms, and give to various local charities. It’s refreshing to see a program that actually works and helps our incarcerated Veterans become valuable citizens, with a desire to make a difference.
Mike “Gunny” Cheramie