On Saturday, February 11th, members of the West Baton Rouge Healthy Drug Free Coalition, Louisiana, laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery. I was honored to be invited to take part in the ceremony, representing CADCA and its staff.
Mrs. Toddie Milstead, the coalition’s drug free project coordinator, planned the event to coincide with her coalition’s attendance at CADCA’s 27th National Leadership Forum, February 6-9, 2017, held here in the Washington, DC, area.
During our morning together, and as part of our “getting to know you better,” I had the opportunity to speak with each of the coalition members about themselves, why they were involved in coalition work, and their thoughts about such ceremony and its relationship to service to others.
With regard to the younger members, each of them have accomplished much in their lives to this point; a high school senior planning on a legal education and career; others at the beginning of their high school experience wanting to contribute to the community while also living drug free lives.
The four adult coalition members also impressed me with their patriotism, commitment to the substance abuse prevention field – and dedication to helping others in their community. I was humbled to learn of the careers of the ‘life teachers’ represented by the adults – an Emergency Management Services (EMS) professional, a professional counselor holding a master of science in social work degree who specializes in working with families and most notably, two “Dr. Moms” – both of whom have spent their lifetimes caring for their families, friends and those in need.
At one point in the morning, I asked the group to tell me ‘one more time’ why they were there, given that they had busy travel plans for the day and a plane leaving very soon to take them back to West Baton Rouge, Louisiana. One of the students politely responded:
“Dr. Harrison, we are here to show our respect, on behalf of our coalition, CADCA and others, for the sacrifice of the unknowns as well as for everyone who has served our country in uniform. It was important for us to do this, and we are honored to do so.”
A wreath laying ceremony is always humbling and moving – for reasons as unique as the stories of those now who lay at rest there. The coalition members made a conscious connection between those who have served their country in uniform and those now engaged in the work of substance abuse prevention around our country … and in so doing were laying the wreath on behalf of and in honor of coalitions past, present and future as well as our veterans.
“To Honor All Those Who Have Served America” – it was inspiring to be there with new friends and to thank them for life saving work on behalf of their community. Best wishes for continued success to all engaged in creating safe, healthy and drug-free communities globally.