My wife, Jannett, and I are pleased that the veterans at the Plainfield Correctional Facility have been approved to charter American Legion Post 306 to operate within the facility. Several non- incarcerated veterans from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion were instrumental in helping set this up, but the real energy behind this group is Cathy Kynard, Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialist with Department of Workforce Development assigned to the Plainfield facility.
We are even more honored that, after much research, the veterans voted to name American Legion Post 306 after our son Chancellor A. Keesling. Chancellor died by suicide on June 19, 2009, during his second deployment. After his death, Jannett and I led an effort to change how the military acknowledges and interacts with the family of a suicide victim in the war zone. On July 6, 2011 President Obama changed the Presidential Condolence policy. Although the policy change brought comfort to our family, more importantly our efforts seemed to provide the impetus for the military to more seriously study the effect of trauma – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – on our veteran population. Once again, military leadership is diving into a difficult societal issue to help us find solutions to what seem to be intractable problems.
Any person who has seen combat has, at the least, some level of combat trauma. Although much progress has been made, understanding the impact of PTSD and TBI on behavior are still in their infancy. Yet for trauma victims who commit crimes, it is still a difficult issue for society. I am pleased that Indiana Parole now screens for TBI as a part of the reentry process. The more we understand trauma and its impact on behavior, the better we can help offenders manage reentry.
The veterans at Plainfield were inspired by Chancellor’s story. Many of them shared that they identify with Chancellor and thanked us for getting issues related to PTSD and TBI into the public conversation. My family and RecycleForce will maintain active involvement with The Chancellor A. Keesling American Legion Post 306 and continue to push military and correctional leaders to stay at the forefront of understanding trauma and its impact on our society. We need to help trauma victims who have committed serious crimes and find ways to identify and manage issues before they result in criminal or other anti-social behaviors.
I hope that our regular presence at The Chancellor A. Keesling American Legion Post 306 will help our organizations that serve the reentry population, Keys to Work and RecycleForce, better connect to and engage veterans coming home to Marion County. In the words of the great American spiritual teacher Ram Dass, “We are all just walking each other home.”