Representative Johnson recently spoke at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility for the memorial ceremony honoring correctional officers and others, and which marked the 20th anniversary of the Lucasville Prison Riots. Below is the speech he gave:

Those of us who live here—love our home. There is no other place like this on earth. We also love our state and we love our country. We are proud Americans!

Throughout the history of our nation our local citizens have stepped up to serve, here at home, and at the state and national level. Service is in our nature—it is in our blood.

From the time that the first settlers paddled down the mighty Ohio River, our ancestors planted strong roots here, roots that grew deep in the promise of liberty, freedom and strength, and also in the independence of mind and spirit. If you want to find the classic example of the rugged individualist, the pioneer, the ultimate example of what it means to be an American, you need to look no further than the Americans who first made their homes right here in this wonderful place.

We are the descendants of those people. Their blood runs strong in our bodies. They built, they persevered, and they served—in every calamity from fires and storms and floods to the armed conflicts in which our nation became embroiled. Every time the United States went to war, from the War of 1812 to the Global War on Terror, OUR people stepped up to serve. Our blood, the blood that we share with our ancestors and with our children who are at this moment patrolling the barren lands of Afghanistan, has been spilled on every continent and on every sea in defense of our beloved America, preserving our heritage and holding out the promise to the rest of the world that people can live and flourish in the glory of the independent and triumphant human spirit, given to us by our Creator, Almighty God. While countless millions have suffered beneath the boots of tyrants, we have been free to plot our own course, to fulfill a destiny that is the envy of the world.

We are a great nation and we have made the world a better place because we are a great people, and nowhere will you find any better Americans than we have living right here, amongst our beautiful hills and rivers. The spirit of America runs strong here! It runs strong in us. We have always served, and as long as there is a United States of America we will continue to do our part.

Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines serve us overseas, and our uniformed public servants serve us here at home every day. Whether in armed conflict or in the hard duties that must be done domestically, the spirit of service beyond self is the same. Stepping up to shoulder a burden, willingly walking into something that others might rightfully run away from, doing a hard and dangerous job because it needs to be done and because it is the right thing to do—these are the tasks that fall to our uniformed servants.

Unfortunately, too few people fully appreciate what you Corrections Officers do for us. Few understand the stresses and dangers that you face every day when you put on your uniform and step into this place where you work. Too few understand the sacrifices that go with your service, the hard work that you do, the risks that you shoulder. You must look after yourselves every day as brothers and sisters, as a band of comrades doing a good and important duty, carrying a burden that can be as dangerous as it is necessary.

When you do hazardous duty, it is always possible that things can go wrong—very wrong—as they did 20 years ago, at this very place. When the riot occurred the nation and even the world became aware of the dangers you face in your work, of how tenuous the control over a facility such as this can be, of how important it is to support you in your service.

Since that time you, our corrections community, your band of brothers and sisters, have done an outstanding job at this facility and in others across Ohio. You have worn your uniform with pride; you have represented your state with commendable service. You have done the job so well, in fact, that the public’s memory of just how bad things can go may be fading. So we must remember these things ourselves and we must never let others forget, we must hold up for everyone the record of what happened here on Easter Sunday of 1993. We must face in the cold, hard light of day what went wrong, what had to be fixed, and what was needed to ensure that the same mistakes will never be repeated. We should not need another riot to teach us what we already know: that the service of our officers and the work that you do is hard and dangerous and absolutely essential to our state and to our nation. We should not need another incident in which the precious life of a corrections officer is lost before we realize the nobility of your profession, the value of your uniformed service.

On this day above all others, as we gather to remember a terrible event and vow to keep alive the hard lessons that were learned, we have in our hearts best wishes and prayers for our officers that suffered during those days of siege. God bless them, and especially Officer Robert Vallandingham. God bless all of you brothers and sisters who stood strong during the crisis, and returned to duty in the aftermath. My prayers are with you and your families, for your service and for your sacrifice.

As our ancestors proudly served, as our parents and grandparents loved our home and our country, so too… do we.

If you remember nothing else of these words that I stand and speak to you today, please remember and KNOW this: you have my personal appreciation for what you do. You have my unflagging support. You have my deepest respect.

God bless the great state of Ohio, the United States of America, and God bless you, our corrections officers!

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