As a bell tolled, San Quentin prisoners joined with community members to honor combat and suicide victims of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Veterans Day event was organized by Veterans Healing Veterans from the Inside Out. The group was conceived by Ron Self, a former Marine currently incarcerated at San Quentin, and offers a 36-week curriculum inspired by the GRIP (Guiding Rage into Power) and VOEG (Victim-Offender Education Group) programs.
The program aims to address stress and post-traumatic stress disorder in all San Quentin veterans, regardless of discharge status. Outside sponsors are Director Jacques Verduin, Susan Shannon, and Vietnam veterans Brent MacKinnon and Lt. Col. Sunny Campbell, US Marine Corps, retired.
At the event, the group acknowledged the 6,700 coalition forces killed in action in both wars, 4,500 of whom were Americans.
The combat casualties’ names were printed out on 134 pages and were distributed to inmates who wanted to honor the fallen. Many of the names were read aloud to a bell tolling, until an institutional recall cut the ceremony short. The bell honored those killed in action as well as post-combat veterans who took their own lives.
Numerous outside guests and inmates were on hand for the event. A few guest speakers, veterans from World War II and wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke about the history of PTSD. The condition, once referred to as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue”, is now recognized by the American Psychological Association as a diagnosable condition. The APA also now recognizes that long-term incarceration can result in symptoms of PTSD.
The San Quentin American Indian Culture Group, many of them war veterans, built a fire at the nearby ceremonial ground. The men tending the fire roasted fry bread and chicken for participants.
More information about Veterans Healing Veterans From the Inside Out can be found on Facebook or at www. insight-out.org. Susan Shannon’s account of the event can be found at prisondharmanetwork.org.