Anthony, 58

Anthony, 58

Meet Anthony…

 “Warriors ethos

I will always place the mission first.

I will never accept defeat.

I will never quit.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

Anthony, 58

Incarcerated: 15 years

Housed: California Medical Facility, Vacaville

Anthony wishes to dedicate his work to the loving memory of his beloved wife, Mrs. Leticia Xochi Topete.

The Army lists its values as loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. I enlisted in 1986 during the Cold War and was deployed for a tour to Korea. Today, I’m serving a life term and am part of the Veterans Helping Veterans, an inmate group focused on building a brotherhood amongst us veterans to foster behaviors consistent with the values we learned while on active duty. During COVID I was elected to serve in the capacity of secretary as part of the executive body and I continue to serve with the Color Guard detail during institutional graduations and special events. The education department here under the direction of Ms. Bowman and the rest of the staff have been very supportive. I work as the principal’s clerk recognizing that while we may have made poor choices resulting in legal issues that have led to serious sanctions including incarceration. We are veterans who served our country and received an honorable discharge, seeking to use our skills to help others. Helping others makes a difference in our community. At our meetings we engage in indepth conversations shared with fellow veterans about both military as well as post-military experiences; these experiences are further illuminated by supporting each other with everything from applying for benefits to having your military training converted into college credit through the efforts of Ms. Vito, Ms. Clemens, and Ms. Bowman through the Joint Services Transcript program and we do this on a daily basis within these walls. These are opportunities for a process of healing, character building, and developing new attitudes and behaviors consistent with the values that we learned while on active duty. We find that service is an opportunity to learn how to forgive and be forgiven. When we start making restitution to people whom we have harmed, and we start giving back to other people, we improve our own spiritual life. I have come to realize through groups that spirituality is not mysterious. Rather, an opportunity to grow spirituality by practicing certain behaviors, such as helping others, especially helping fellow veterans, hence our name VETERANS HELPING VETERANS.

While continuing to serve our community of incarcerated veterans, as part of our mission, exploring connections between ourselves and the rest of the inmate population, in an effort to be of service as veterans and recover from post-traumatic distress many military veterans are seeking ways beyond conventional treatments to manage their stress injuries. An increasing number are turning to the VHV and building relationships with fellow incarcerated veterans. Many continue to benefit from medication and therapy but find that nothing can replace the sense of brotherhood we have found here which provides an additional measure of support, relief, and healing in our lives. Our group examines reciprocal interactions between veterans of all branches and service times as well as during post-conflict recovery with a focus on the experiences of our veterans who regard their personal recovery from stressful and traumatic military experiences as intimately tied to our carceral exposures.

By exploring the bonds of brotherhood experienced within the VHV, with safety, sense of purpose, and renewed relationships, this opportunity gives space to former soldiers’ stories and their individual realizations that their interconnections with other veterans provide alternative examples to their military training and combat exposure. The Veterans’ experiences within the group point towards an avenue of recovery that is little acknowledged in the mainstream, and as incarcerated veterans, we have shared life experiences that only we can relate to each other which are deserving of each other’s attention and respect. The overall commonality amongst our members and our varied branches and years of service has helped show many of us the way forward-the ways that life can continue beyond military experiences and incarceration. The veterans narratives in this space allows the former soldiers’ personal experiences to their embodied interconnections between those with alternative or similar military training and combat exposures. The rhythms of the outside world leave traces on each person’s story. Our brotherhood speaks through the veterans, and through our stories of experience we come to the realization that they not unique or few in number, as we enter into a relationship with one another and with the world around us and continue to program in order to promote a successful community reintegration of our veterans, upon release from prison. Let us never forget our; Warriors ethos.



Pedro, 69

Meet Pedro…

“For me it’s a way to start giving back to my community. In my case, my community starts here.” 

Pedro, 69

Incarcerated: 25 years

I am in the process of rehabilitating myself. I am lucky to be in San Quentin, the right place where self-help groups are offered to address my drug and alcohol addiction. I started this prison sentence without a goal. However, there was one thing I knew I had to change, I decided “Enough is enough, I have got to stop doing drugs and alcohol, or I will destroy my life.” Then I made peace with the God of my understanding and for self improvement I set out to get my high school diploma. I also started going to Alcohol Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Then, I got transferred to San Quentin. At first I was worried because of its notoriety of being a hard core prison, but that all changed. I found San Quentin to be a rehabilitation and educational institution. Here I found so much to do, that I needed to choose which program to take. I enrolled in Mount Tamalpais college. Then the pandemic hit and all the programs came to a halt!  It was early in 2021 when the pandemic restrictions were lifted and I was asked if I wanted to help to set up the new college library. The library was going to be in B-building, in the existing storage area known as cage #1 and cage #2. There were thousands of books in boxes. I started working right away by dusting off the boxes and shelves, as well as sweeping and mopping a year of dust and dirt. Inventory needed to be taken. The books were to be classified and counted, the idea to display them like in a bookstore developed. It was an easier method to identify and categorize them. At the same time while putting together the new library, they did not have a porter to clean and maintain the building’s classrooms and study areas. The building needed to be brought to post-covid cleaning standard.  The education department did not have a gardener, so I also took on the duties of gardening. This experience, working as a volunteer has helped me to make indirect amends for the wrong and harm I’ve done to my victims. For me it’s a way to start giving back to my community. In my case, my community starts here.

Joseph, 67

Joseph, 67


Meet Joseph…

From slavery to unity, through suffering and scorn,
Katrina can’t break us as Americans,
Like before, we’ll weather the storm.

Joseph, 67
Incarcerated: 32 years
Housed: Kern Valley State Prison, Delano, CA

Americans will be the winner

Now, how do I describe the pain and hurt or say what I deeply feel,
Just the thought of what I seen and heard of Katrina, all man, I’m feeling seriously ill,
To the core of my bones, I felt a horribly and nasty cold chill,
When I heard the levee broke, I mean, man tell me what the real deal
Sure all the people were warned before Katrina came crashing through,
But the deft, dumb, cripple, old and blind, what were they suppose to do,

The flood water problems were known to hit, many, many, many, years ago,
Major computerized testing, for the levy’s weakness, against the flood waters flow,
Now, all of a sudden I’m hearing rumors, and claims that the government didn’t even know,
Man, I’m not trying to heart that crap, come on people say it isn’t so,
The President and FEMA, but not everyone,

Was untimely with relief efforts to get the job done,
Walmart donated water, needed gas, and food was donated too,
But FEMA turned those items away, without a clue as to what they was suppose to do,
Now, if most the people in the Katrina Disaster were white instead of black,
The question must be asked, would a majority all white American Government,
Held those relief efforts back,

Now, maybe I’m just suffering with an illusion from all the Katrina misery,
Or is it true that, Dogging Blacks is the fiber of White American History,
But there is a side of the Katrina Disaster that I must say is very bright,
Most Americans, Celebrities, and the whole world is helping,
And many of those people or White,
What hurt’s me real bad in this Katrina situation,
Was the Women, Children and little babies crying,
People begging for help and food,
While older people were left dead with animals dead or dying,
Americans are Black, White, Red, Yellow and Brown,
Just to name a few,

And we will get busy and turn this disaster around,
That’s just what Americans do,
Can you feel the pain of my profuse crying,
Please Lord take the stake from my heart,
Because I feel like dying,
There are no amount of words that can truly express how ill I feel,
I can understand the looters,
People gotta eat,
Man, just keeping it real,
But the raping of little girls and women,
My God, gave me a real cold chill,

Got no time now for pointing the finger,
And that’s a natural fact,
But, can we all just get along,
At least until we get Louisiana and Mississippi back,
Now, we all know it’s only right for us,
To mourn for all those that die,
But, all the death, and hungry People crying for help due to Katrina,
Made blood, sweat and tears fall from my eyes,
But, I have faith and hope in the Unseen,
And the bells of liberty and freedom from this disaster will continue to ring,

And as I reflect on the late great Martin Luther King,
I know Americans will grasp the vision,
And fulfill the dream,
We will get up and rebuild Louisiana and Mississippi,
And I mean like never before,
For the whole entire world to see,
And none will be able to ignore,
So we get to stand the coarse together oh mighty Americans,
Stand the course and fight the good fight,
Put aside all out petty differences,
And let all of Humanity see how we can unite.

Americans, you know how we can do it,
Believe me, there’s no doubt in mind,
Cause we’ve already been thru hell and back,
As revealed throughout the annals of time,
From slavery to unity, through suffering and scorn,
Katrina can’t break us as Americans,
Like before, we’ll weather the storm,
We must remember to focus on the sunshine,
As we march bravely through the night,
Be strong through all the hurt, pain and death due to Katrina,
Cause we walk in faith, and not by Sight,
This Hurricane opponent who left all the damage,
Newscasters have named it Katrina,
But when it’s all over said and done,


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