Ten inmates at the Belmont Correctional Institution graduated today--not from prison, but from the prison's Military Preparation Program.
The program was introduced December 10, and 14 prisoners initially were in the first class.
Ten of them finished the 12-week program that consisted of long hours of mental and physical training. "You've got to have both," says Charles Winland, honor graduate. "You've got to be mentally tough and physically tough to complete this program."
They learned the seven military values.
"Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage," recited David Wheeler, a military prep graduate. "And to me, the biggest is integrity. Doing what's right even if no one's looking. Holding yourself accountable to do what's right. Had I had these values sooner, I wouldn't be here. But I have them now."
They may or may not be accepted into the military once they get out of prison.
"In order to join the military, they'll have to have a waiver for their offenses," said Mike Meintel, unit manager.
Charles Winland, who graduated with highest honors, has a plan in mind.
"When I get out, I would like to go into the Marine Corps," Winland says. "I would like to do something with automotive work."
They say the program is about values and positively changing lives.