PDT Staff Writer
Representatives from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, the staff at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility and family members who have lost loved ones in the line of duty at the facility held their annual memorial service Tuesday afternoon.
The main speaker for the event was State Representative Dr. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott). Johnson compared those who work at the facility with those who serve the country in the U.S. military.
“The spirit of service beyond self is the same,” Johnson told those in attendance. “Stepping up to shoulder a burden. Willingly walking into something other folks might rightfully run away from during a hard and dangerous job because it needs to be done, and because it is the right thing to do. These are the tasks that fall to your uniformed servants. Unfortunately, too few people really appreciate what you corrections officers do for us. Few understand the stresses and dangers that you face everyday, when you put on your uniform and step into this place where you work. Too few understand the sacrifices that go with your service — the hard work that you do — the risk that you shoulder. You must look after yourselves everyday as brothers and sisters, and a band of comrades doing a good and important duty.”
One of the annual highlights is the reading of the roll, performed by retired training officer Jerry Tovine.
“Arthur Sprouse…Gary Underwood…Eric Bowling…Beverly Taylor…Bobby Vallandingham.” As each name was read, there was a silence from the families gathered in front of the podium, and a member of the SOCF color guard, would march to the memorial, place a flower, step back and salute.
Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, said the reason SOCF is highly regarded is how they have reacted to adversity, referencing the 1993 prison riot.
“It has been called the best, the finest, high security prison in the United States of America, by someone who spent 44 years of their life, and came from out of state as part of an assessment team to take a look at this facility,” Mohr said. “That’s how you answered the challenge of adversity.”
SOCF Warden Donnie Morgan spoke about the importance of the memorial service.
“We know we can never repay the debt to them,” Morgan said. “But we believe it is our duty and committment to ensure that their memories and their names live on.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.