It was an overcast morning on the lower yard when the Vietnam Veterans Group took San Quentin’s Field of Dreams. At a few minutes before noon on May 28, the command to “Fall in!” pierced through the yard as the as nearly 45 group members displayed their patriotism in company formation for a Memorial Day observance.
The group waited at parade rest under the leadership of Chairman Christopher ‘Nuke’ Schuhmacher until the clock struck high noon. From across the field, the Honor Guard raised the United States and POW/MIA flags and began their march towards the formation.
The command was given and the group came to attention and awaited the posting of the colors. With the Honor Guard in place, Chairman Schuhmacher gave the command ‘Present Arms!’ that was followed by a group salute from the formation.
Honor Guard member, trumpet player, Larry ‘Popeye’ Faison, took his position on the field, and played Taps to honor the men and women who gave their lives serving in the military.
Craig Johnson, a US Navy veteran and VVGSQ Honor Guard squad leader, said of his participation, “Memorial Day is a day to honor those who have served in defense of this country and given the ultimate sacrifice. I may be incarcerated, but today I still take pride in my ability to serve.”
Once Taps was completed, the command ‘Order Arms!’ was given and Faison reentered the Honor Guard’s formation. They skillfully wheeled about and made their way back across the field. Chairman Schuhmacher and the entire VVGSQ waited at attention while the Honor Guard exited.
It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, which seldom happens on a prison yard of over 1000 men. After a moment of silence, Chairman Schuhmacher gave the command ‘Fall out!’ and the group disbursed and went their separate ways.
“In my 13 years of incarceration, I’ve never been as proud to be a veteran as I was that day with my veteran brothers.”, said US Air Force veteran Schuhmacher. “On that day…for those brief moments, I forgot all about being locked up. I was able to reflect on the significance of what it means to serve in the US Armed Forces. I hope I never lose that feeling.”
The VVGSQ is a veterans group at San Quentin made up of honorably discharged veterans from all eras 1776 to present. If you’ve served in the United States Armed Forces and have an embossed DD-214 ‘Under Honorable Conditions’ discharge, please contact the VVGSQ member-at-large in your housing unit to obtain an application.
For those without ‘Honorable’ discharge status, the VVGSQ encourages you to contact the VIP office in the Education Dept. to begin the procedure for having your discharge upgraded. The VVGSQ welcomes your participation in our mission of continuing to serve the veteran community.