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Incarcerated Veterans of Roxbury observe National POW/MIA Recognition Day

September 18, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

Prisoners of War and those Missing In Action remembered

HAGERSTOWN -- National POW/MIA Recognition Day moved inside of the razor-lined walls of the Roxbury Correctional Institution on Friday as a group of inmate veterans remembered American service personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The event was sponsored by the Incarcerated Veterans of Roxbury, an organization of about 30 inmates who were honorably discharged from the Armed Forces.

Friday marked the first time that POW/MIA Recognition Day was celebrated at the prison. On several occasions, the inmate veterans snapped to attention and saluted the flag as taps was played to pay tribute to the departed.

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"We might be locked up, but we're not locked down," said Bernard Hipkins, a Navy veteran serving 25 years for armed robbery. "We can still represent ourselves as men and give back to the community."

Hipkins said he felt sad and honored during the two-hour ceremony.

"I felt sad because their family might not have closure and honored because this is a day of recognition to honor those who served," Hipkins said after a speaker read a tally of the number of POWs and MIAs from American wars. "I wasn't aware that there were so many people missing."

About 88,000 U.S. service members are recorded as missing or unaccounted for since World War II, according to the Department of Defense.

Danny Feddon, 37, said the organization helps veteran inmates stay positive.

"The ceremony was very enlightening," said Feddon, who served as an infantryman in the Army from 1993-97. "I have the deepest respect for anyone who has given their life for the ideals and principles that this country was founded on."

Former Army paratrooper Joseph Parker Jr., 61, said he was recommended for parole in August after serving four years for a drug conviction. He said he intends to enter an inpatient rehabilitation program at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., if he is released.

Parker said the Incarcerated Veterans of Roxbury hold walk-a-thons in the prison yard to raise money for veteran charities.

"I'm glad to be a part of this," Parker said. "It's an honor. We have failed in the past ... but we're trying to go down a better path."

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