Jackson County Celebrates Veterans Day
On this 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day, Jackson County is honored to celebrate our former and current military personnel and acknowledge their service to the nation.
The county celebrates the service of all veterans, especially those who work for Jackson County. One county department that has attracted a large number of military veterans is the Department of Corrections.
Corrections Department Director Diana Turner said, “Our department is made up of people deeply committed to public service. The values of duty, honor, sacrifice and teamwork developed in military service fit well into the culture at the Department of Corrections and we hope to recruit more current and former airmen, soldiers, sailors and marines to our team moving forward.”
Mike Raines served nearly 31 years in the Army before retiring and starting at Jackson County two years ago. He said his military training absolutely helped in making the transition from the Army to his current position as accreditation manager for the jail.
“I started out as a military policeman and converted over to the Army correctional system, but absolutely it really prepares you with the similarities of dealing with incarcerated individuals. So it was not much of a transition moving from a correctional institution to a jail. From the military side of corrections to the civilian side of corrections,” he said.
Corrections Officer Bernadette Ennis joined the Army just after turning 21. “Most of my adulthood came from the things I learned being in the military and being stationed at Ft. Leavenworth. It helped me to understand how to take the negative and turn it into a positive at a very young age.”
Ennis worked at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth for three years. She is now able to share what she learned during her time in the military with young people.
“Hopefully it will help them to turn their lives around and that’s one of the most rewarding attributes about being a corrections officer,” she said. “You can speak with the youth or even some young adults about what it is like to be incarcerated even if it is for a week or even a day and hopefully that is one less person that will have to face the legal system.”
“I loved every minute of my service,” Lt. Elmer Grayson said. Grayson served four and half years as a mechanic in the Army before leaving to fulfill family obligations. He started a family at a young age that grew quite rapidly.
“I was always gone being deployed in a combat unit. Every time I looked around we were going to the field, 45 days, 60 days so I ended up having to get out to satisfy my family,” he said. “You start having kids you’ve got to build that family cohesively, so when mom called and said hey it’s time for you to get out because you are gone too much, that’s what I had to do. I had to step up and be a man and take charge of my family.”
When Grayson first left the military he became a truck driver, a job which just wasn’t right for him. It was missing the structure and the environment that he needed. “Not saying that truck driving doesn’t have structure but there are a lot of variables in there where you are dependent on yourself and I like the structure where I know when I get up in the morning I know my team depends on me. The team atmosphere is where you know you are only as strong as your weakest link and you pull your weakest up to you and that is where I thrive.”
“Corrections is much more than just incarcerating individuals. It is a very complex system that you’ve got to learn and understand and I knew that once I retired that I could utilize those skill sets in other organizations,” Raines said. “So really to me it became a career. I became a career professional soldier, I became a career professional corrections officer and I looked at myself as that.”
Raines, Ennis and Grayson all agreed they love the profession they have chosen and that their time in the military helped prepare them for a life working in corrections.
“It’s a teamwork kind of thing. Like the military, it’s teamwork and that’s the only language I understand,” Ennis said.
VETERANS NOW EMPLOYED AT THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
Demetrius McDowell – Army Brian Johnson - Army
Mike Raines – Army Major John Cloonan – Army
Lt. John Baldree – Army Capt. Lea Henderson - Marines
Capt. Michael Cunningham – Air Force Capt. Terry Pittman – Air Force
Capt. Nilda Serrano – Army Capt. Tony Bowers – Air Force
Investigator Gina Lacuniak – Army Darryl James - Army
CO Bernadette Ennis – Marines Director Diana Turner – Army
Lt. Charise Hill – Air Force Adam Green – Army
Jurgen Hewitt – Army Roger Schempp – Air Force
Michael Webb – Navy Andrew Peckham – Marines
Kenneth Blewett – Marines Elmer Grayson – Army
Craig Braden - Army
Military Veterans employed by the Corrections Department -- Front Row -- Lea Henderson-Marines, John Cloonan-Army, John Baldree-Army, Charise Hill-Army, Roger Schempp-Airforce. Second Row -- Terry Pittman-Airforce, Bernadette Ennis-Army, Andrew Peckham-Marines, Michael Webb-Navy. Third Row -- Kenneth Blewett-Marines, Gina Laouniak-Army, Craig Braden-Army. Forth Row -- Elmer Grayson-Army, Mike Raines-Army, Adam Green-Army, Brian Johnson-Army, Michael Cunningham-Air Force, Jurgen Hewitt-Army