Lt. Everardo Silva, AA/Public Information Officer
Calipatria State Prison

On Tuesday, Nov. 10, Calipatria State Prison staff paid tribute to our nation’s veterans with a memorial dedicated in their honor.  Calipatria staff raised $21,000 through donations and fundraising in order to purchase the memorial and fund the dedication ceremony.

The event featured guests from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and veterans from the local community.

“We are all here today to lend ourselves, and pay tribute to the idea of honor and respect for those committed people that have given such great sacrifice to this nation, by serving the United State of America in the Armed Forces,” said U.S. Army veteran W. L. Montgomery, Warden of Calipatria. “The veterans memorial began with a vision of recognizing the many staff that not only have walked the grounds of Calipatria State Prison, but served our country. It began with a simple thought and evolved into this amazing and beautiful area that is truly a collaboration of thoughts, ideas and vision, made possible by the dedication and hard work of volunteers.”

Guests also heard U.S. Marine veteran Danny Garcia, a sergeant at Calipatria State Prison, sing the National Anthem and enjoyed the local Calipatria High School Band play America the Beautiful.

Guest speakers included Connie Gipson, CDCR Associate Director General Population Males. She thanked our veterans for their services to our country and told the crowd this site “would remind people every day of the diligence, professionalism and patience shown to us by our nations’ veterans.”

Joseph G. Rief, a lieutenant of the U.S. Navy, based in El Centro Naval Air Facility, spoke about his career in the Navy. He shared his experience with guests of his service as a Desert Hawk based out of Manama, Bahrain. He had over 850 flight hours and is a recipient of the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and Navy Achievement Medal.  Not only was Rief proud, he was humbled by the gesture shown to veterans by Calipatria State Prison staff for recognizing the day to day sacrifices made by veterans.

Thomas W. Henderson, retired Captain from the Army who enlisted in 1966 and served in the 1st Calvary in Vietnam in 1970-1971, read a dedication he wrote to Staff Sgt. Ronald Sagers, Killed in Action May 22, 1970, Cambodia, and to all our military casualties in all our wars:

“As the years go by, memories dim. The saying goes, ‘Life goes on.’ Families grow, homes are built, children grow, careers advance, and as the saying goes, ‘Life goes on.’ Once each year, things change. Once each year, I remember the single shot, followed by a crescendo of gunfire. I remember the smell of gunpowder. I remember the sounds as the Cobra fired its rockets. I remember the feeling of helplessness and anger. Most of all once each year, I remember him for him, as the saying goes, ‘Life stood still.’ I remember the stare on his face. It wasn’t the famous ‘thousand yard stare.’ It wasn’t a stare of shock or surprise, it was the bland stare of death, of life interrupted, terminated, ended. Once each year, as the saying goes, ‘Life stands still.’ And I am reminded… I am reminded that Ron’s family didn’t grow. I am reminded that Ron never built his home. I am reminded that Ron wouldn’t see his children grow. The saying ‘life goes on’ is wrong. But I am also reminded that there are people like you who will always keep us in your memory and in your heart, for that I thank you.”