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|November 17, 2011
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PAYING TRIBUTE TO OUR VETERANS: PROBATION EMPLOYEES WHO
SERVED OUR COUNTRY AND CONTINUE TO SERVE BY HELPING
COURT-INVOLVED FORMER SOLDIERS
With plans for American troop withdrawal by the end of the year and the recent observance of Veterans’ Day, thoughts turn to Probation employees who are veterans and those who work with court-involved former military men and women.
The Massachusetts Probation Service proudly honors our employees who are military veterans and acknowledges their dedicated service to the country, our agency, and fellow veterans. Among Probation’s ranks are employees statewide who are Vietnam-era, Desert Storm/Gulf War, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.
Included in the most recent wave of soldiers is Plymouth Superior Court Assistant Chief Probation Officer Emmanuel Fernandes, who has previously served in Iraq. Fernandes is on call for training and possible deployment to Iraq. According to the U.S. Government, there are currently 41,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. An estimated 4,000-5,000 security forces will remain during post-war efforts. At the height of the nearly decade-long war—2006—171,000 soldiers were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Concord District Court Probation Officer Robert Blake, a Vietnam veteran who served four years in the Navy, has spent his years as a Probation Officer supervising a caseload that includes fellow veterans. At Concord District, he presently supervises veterans who are residents at the Bedford Veterans Hospital. As a Boston Municipal Court Probation Officer, he worked with veterans at the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans in Boston.
“When I was at BMC, we had a large number of probationers who were at the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans and being a veteran I agreed to supervise that caseload as a way of assisting another Veteran in getting their life back together. Later, when I transferred to Concord, I saw the same need at the Bedford VA,” said Blake, a Probation Officer since 1987.
In addition to Blake, Middlesex Superior Court Assistant Chief Probation Officer Joseph Burke, Hingham District Court Probation Officer Joseph Condrick, Lowell District Court Assistant Chief Probation Officer Pasquale Desimone, and Essex Probate & Family Court Probation Officer Theodore Bregor are all Vietnam War-era veterans.
Burke, who spent four years in the Air Force—from 1969 to 1973—was an enlisted sergeant.
“My prayers are always with them and their families. We survived Vietnam. For the kids that have been in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s been really tough but they will survive too,” said Burke.
Condrick enlisted in the U.S. Navy upon graduating from high school in 1964, serving three years on active duty in Vietnam. He enlisted in the Navy Reserve in 1979 and spent 26 years as an Intelligence Specialist, retiring as the Command Master Chief for Navy Reserve Intelligence Command. Condrick performed funeral honor details for veterans—367 details over a five year period. He has melded his military and probation experience into his role as the Law-Related Education Coordinator at Hingham Court.
“The Navy gave me a start in higher education and I feel the need to continue to pay back my country for this opportunity,” Condrick said.
Desimone is a Vietnam war-era veteran who served in the Air Force from 1964 to 1968 as an enlisted sergeant. When he reflects on his service and witnesses the service of a new generation to the country, he feels a sense of pride.
“I have a great deal of pride whenever I think about this time of year. Whenever I see tribute being paid, I have gratitude for today’s veterans,” he said.
Bregor, a specialist fourth class in the army during the Vietnam War, said “What comes to mind is the Vietnam Veterans wall in Washington which shows the names of 65,000 people who perished. It is a moving and disturbing place.”
“The best assistance I can give to those returning from the war is to listen. I ask about their involvement with the Veterans’ Administration. I have a lot of respect for young kids who have gone off to war. I feel bad for people who have lost loved ones or veterans who come back handicapped. It is a life-changing event,” he said.
GULF WAR VETERANS
Gulf War veterans, who served during the first major conflict America was involved with since Vietnam, think about their service to the country during this time of year.
Northern Berkshire District Court Probation Case Specialist II Theresa M. McLaughlin, a Petty Officer first class who served 21 years in the Navy, served during Desert Storm.
McLaughlin said, “Getting our guys and girls home as soon as possible is the top priority. Anything we can do to help them transition back, I will do. I support them 110 percent.”
Andrew S. Blatus, a Lowell District Court Probation Officer, was an enlisted sergeant in the Air Force and is a Gulf War veteran who spent time in the Philippines. A 14-year Probation Officer, Blatus said, “Serving my country was my proudest moment. I am grateful for the young men and women who serve our country today—especially what’s at stake and I have the utmost respect for anybody who puts their life on the line for their country.”
“Anything I can do to make the transition easier, I will do. It may be a small thing but it is appreciated by returning veterans,” added Blatus who helps returning soldiers through his work at the Dracut American Legion.
Desert Storm era veteran George Haywood was a third class petty officer in the Navy reserve who worked as a hospital corpsman or medic. Haywood, a Bristol Juvenile Probation Officer, said he has been asked by his children about his service to the country.
“I tell them that thanks to those who put their lives on the line, we can appreciate the freedoms of the world,” said Haywood, a 14-year Probation Officer who served from 1988-1996.
Suffolk Superior Court Probation Officer Edward Flynn is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom which included service in the Persian Gulf and on the Joint Task Force-Guantanamo Bay. Flynn, a member of the Thomas J. Fitzgerald Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) Post in South Boston, assisted with a package drive for U.S. service men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It was an honor to work with the community and with other veterans to ensure those serving in harm’s way are remembered. Giving something back to those on active duty is important for all of us. Through the work of the post and the community, we proudly sent over 400 care packages to these brave men and women,” Flynn said.
Brian Daly, a Probation Case Specialist at Boston Municipal Court (BMC)-Dorchester, was enlisted in the Navy from 1994 to 1996 before receiving a medical discharge. Daly, a 15-year Probation employee, was stationed in Virginia Beach.
Eastern Hampshire District Court Probation Officer Jason Harder served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm—including three tours of duty in the second Gulf War, all three in combat and once on the front lines. Harder also served in Mogadishu, Somalia as part of Operation Restore Hope during which he earned the Bronze Star with Valor. Harder was deployed to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
“I just want to remind people to thank a veteran for their service. Their sacrifices came at a cost that not everyone is willing to share,” said Harder who is currently president of the Veterans Association of Hampshire County.
Bristol County Juvenile Acting Chief Probation Officer Kevin C. Martin was a sergeant first class in the Army and the Army National Guard, serving for 24 years-- and is also a Desert Storm veteran. Martin said he also served in Panama when General Daniel Noriega was removed from office. His unit was deployed to assist in the presidential election. He retired in December 2005.
Reflecting on Veteran’s Day, Martin said, “First I can not believe it has been 20 years since I served in Desert Storm.
“To this day, I always get emotional when I hear the good news and bad news about a soldier or their family. What I hope for this Veterans’ Day and in the future is that we celebrate our past, current and future veterans and remember the sacrifices that they and their families have made,” said Martin, a 15-year Probation employee.
IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS
More recently, 10 Probation employees, who were soldiers in the current conflicts of Iraq and Afghanistan, all returned home safely after their tours of duty and are working in Probation Departments throughout the state. In fact, one of those veterans, Attleboro District Court Probation Officer II David Powers retired this month from Probation. As previously stated, Plymouth Superior Court Assistant Chief Probation Officer Emmanuel Fernandes is currently on call for training and possible deployment to Iraq. Fernandes also previously served in Iraq.
Springfield District Court ACPO Margaret Oglesby serves on the Board of Directors at the Holyoke Soldiers Home where she addresses the needs of veterans.
We are reaching out to veterans who have served in different conflicts. When veterans find themselves before the court, it is extremely important to know and address their needs, specifically those that are unique to veterans,” Oglesby said.
Southern Berkshire District Court Probation Officer Michael Duma, who is in the U.S. Air Force reserves and has also served in the Gulf war, said that there is always the possibility that those enlisted in the military will be called up for service until the date of their retirement. With Thanksgiving a week away, Duma said he is grateful to be stateside this holiday.
“When you are in the military, you are grateful to spend the holidays with family because that call for deployment can come anytime,” Duma said. “The last time I was over there (at war), there were a whole handful of holidays where my contact with family was a phone call.”
Duma’s experience as a soldier and veteran benefits the veterans who find themselves before the court. He works with veterans to help them get the specialized counseling they need for issues related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For returning veterans, Duma has a word of advice.
“Veterans have been in such a tremendous hyper-charged environment and it takes a while for them to let their guard down. They have to recognize that it is okay to let their guard down. It takes time to do this and it takes a lot of talking. They need to search out help. I steer them toward the services they need. There are a lot of good counselors. The counselors needed for veterans are those who specialize in combat-related PTSD,” Duma said.
Also among the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are Quincy District Court Probation Officer Susan Hart Forzese; Chicopee District Court Probation Officer Andrew Theberge; Holyoke District Court Probation Officer Antonio Padilla; Assistant ELMO Coordinator Stephen Ware; Attleboro District Court Probation Officer Mark DesLauriers; and Plymouth Juvenile Court Probation Officer James Quinn.