A Veterans day event was held on San Quentin’s Lower Yard.
The event, which was six months in the planning, honored those who have served with music, speakers, and a march around the yard
“The people who served, they deserve this day. We have a day for memorial. Today is to celebrate.” Resident Patrick Demery said as he hosted the event.
The event began with the color guard presenting the colors, including the flags for each branch of the U.S. military (except Space Force). Participants then stood behind the branch they chose to show specific support for, whether having served or to honor loved ones who did.
As one, they walked a lap around the yard, people joining in as the large group passed. A noticeable addition to the walk was the players of the football program, who were outside for a game.
After the march, Tina, the teacher for Acting Veterans and sponsor for Veterans Group of San Quentin, took the stage to give a speech on what it means for someone to be a veteran.
“To all veterans, you made a choice to commit your life on behalf of others in service. As a veteran, you were discharged as a survivor, and yet in offering your life, you may have confronted injury upon injury.
“‘Greater love hath no man, that he lay down his life for a friend.’ [Martin Luther King Jr] In the act of raising your hand, you laid down your life.” She said.
The Greater Good performed live music for the event. Eleven musicians performed on the small stage, playing all sorts of instruments from bass to guitar and harmonica to piano.
Later in the event, No Strings Attached provided additional live music, stepping up to fill in for the scheduled band who were not able to perform. They filled those shoes excellently, rocking the stage for a long set despite having no warning they’d play that day.
A fellow veteran made sure to give props on the mic for the man who put the event together. Noah Winchester, US Marine Corps, put in the leg work to make the event happen and ensure it ran smoothly.
“I want us to have a community and come together,” said Winchester, who is the Sergeant at Arms of Veterans Group of San Quentin. “There’s a huge [veteran] community here and I want to make sure we are elevating them and giving them their needs and not forgetting about them. We didn’t forget about them on the battlefield and I’m not gonna forget about them here.”
John Poggi, facilitator for Veterans Healing Veterans, spoke on the hardships of being a veteran in the 60’s and 70’s. He described how the public were not so welcoming when soldiers came home.
“Pretty girls didn’t want to be with you; veterans didn’t wear their uniform off base. Today people are more appreciative of veterans,” Poggi said light heartedly, but then got serious when he summarized what a veteran is. “A veteran is a person who wrote a check to the US government in the amount of their life.”
Chairman of VGSQ, Ray Melberg, offered thanks in an interview to all his fellow veterans. “Thank you for your service, we are proud of you and appreciate the risks you’ve taken and the devotion you’ve had for your country.”
Lee Jaspar ended the event on an electric guitar, playing Jimmi Hendrix’s version of The Star Spangled Banner.
Winchester, who was outside early in the morning to set up, stayed late to help put up all the chairs and equipment.
To his fellow veterans, he said: “I love you, I see you. Irregardless of why you’re here, I see you. I hope that veterans in other prisons see this and decide to do the same where they are. Look around here, at all the support. Co’s throwing salutes, outside people coming in to participate. They see us. We’re not forgotten.”