Retired sheriff Capt. Paul Sachet, Don Williams, past chairman, county advisory corrections committee, and retired sheriff Capt. Dan Buckwald pose in front of Penny and Pearl, two of the better-known horses that pull the wagon. PHOTO PROVIDED

Karen Munsell and I had the privilege of visiting Camp Alma, which is now the Veteran Legacy Rehabilitation Camp. I thank Karen for taking notes of the proceedings, which are reflected here in this article. She is also credited with some of the photographs. Other photos are supplied by the Veterans Legacy camp. 

The purpose of the visit was the dedication of a team of Percheron horses that were recently purchased by Dr. John LeBow. The horses were blessed by Native American Allen Truesdale, a spiritual elder. In the blessing ceremony, the team was turned over to Phillip Groshong, vice president of the board, and is now on a ranch until the barn and corrals are built at Alma.

The wagon being drawn by the team of Penny and Pearl is on loan to the Veterans Camp by Walt, a volunteer and good friend of Dr. LeBow. The Veterans refurbished and painted the wagon.

a scenic shot of Camp Alma, which Veterans Legacy purchased in June of 2018. Located on 107 acres, it includes an administration building, with working industrial kitchen, dorms, shops, and farming. PHOTO PROVIDED

The mission of Camp Alma is to work with veterans in need. Many animals, such as dogs and cats, are used in therapy, and this team of horses will serve that purpose in a farming personal contact environment. 

There has been much written regarding the past history of Camp Alma. For those who are new to the neighborhood, or need a refresher: It formerly operated as a Sheriff Work Camp until 2008. The county budget committee cut the corrections budget, and closed the camp as a Sheriff Work Camp.

Veterans Legacy, which became a nonprofit in 2016, leased the property in 2017 and purchased it in June of 2018, with dedication in November of 2018. 

Located on 107 acres, it includes an administration building, with working industrial kitchen, dorms, shops, and farming. 

Veterans Legacy Board members, numerous corporate and individual donors, and dedicated volunteers have worked tirelessly over the last five years to rehabilitate Camp Alma as a safe haven for veterans.

Spectators enjoy a ride on the wagon during the festivities in late November. Penny and Pearl, out front, in harness and pulling the wagon. PHOTO PROVIDED

Rehab work has included new water, heating, and air conditioning systems, installation of commercial kitchen equipment, and dorm beds. Compliance testing of fire suppression system, roof repair, building repair cleaning of facilities, rehouse reconstruction -- all by the generous and dedicated supporters of Veterans Legacy.

We talked with a man who is supplying new mattresses for the dorms. Some special mattresses are being brought in for tall people -- they are 7 feet! Many of the blankets are made from remnants and scraps of the heavy denim uniforms that the Forest Camp Inmates wore. They are being turned into bed covers and other items by volunteers.

The surrounding land around Camp Alma will be used for farming, including greenhouses and field cropping, to attain self-sufficiency in food production for the facility, as well as contributing to community food resources, such as Food for Lane County.

Active involvement in forestry projects, such as forest fire mitigation. It is anticipated as yet another opportunity in which clients may provide community service. These endeavors will continue to provide a general framework which will encourage focus on treatment interventions, re-establishment of self esteem, aid in their reintegration and aid in acquiring employment when their site care is completed for each member.

For those of you who are interested in the origin of the draft horse breed – Percherons are one of five breeds in the draft horse category. The other four North American draft horses are Belgium, Clydesdales, Shire, and Suffolk. There are many other breeds termed ‘draft horses’ throughout the world.  

These horses are registered Percheron Draft Horses. The Percheron is a draft horse breed that originated in the Huisne in Western France, part of the former Perche Province, from which the breed gets its name. Usually gray or black, Percherons are well muscled, and known for their intelligence and willingness to work. Average weight is 1,900-2,100 lbs. 

This beautiful team was purchased by Dr. LeBow from Hazelton, Iowa. The harness that you see pictured was made by Barnie Simpson, a master harness maker from Gilbert, Minn. The U.S. button on the harness has its own Veterans legacy. When spotted in a drawer of buttons to choose from, it was perfect for this harness. These military buttons are not meant to shine. Soldiers realized that during wartime, buttons on uniforms attracted light and made them a shiny target. The buttons were designed as non-reflective or shiny. 

I had the privilege of the chairmanship of the Lane County Advisory Corrections committee when Sheriff Dave Burkes first proposed the idea of Camp Alma for the rehabilitation of minor offenders, with the primary idea to teach them a trade, such as short-order cook, gardener, forestry, and to give them focus on life with specially trained deputies, who also had faith that most violates can be rehabilitated into productive citizens.

A picture shows the then and now, past and present. Paul Sachet, on my right, was a lieutenant at the time of the creation of Alma as a Sheriff’s work camp. Paul wrote most of the programs and was very instrumental, working with Sheriff Burkes. The committee, which I chaired, was behind the camp and the concept. It was a Lane County ballot issue, and was passed by a comfortable margin to build the camp and operate it as a rehabilitation center while inmates served their time to society learning a trade.

From that camp came the roadside cleanup where you see a sheriff van pulling a trailer with a bucks toilet and a work crew cleaning blackberries, while serving community service time.

On my left is Dan Buckwald, manager of the new Veterans Legacy Camp. Dan came to the sheriff’s office from the Air Force. He was a housing deputy, then crew deputy, and then promoted to Sergeant and assigned to the Forest Work Camp.

Both Paul Sachet and Dan Buckwald retired as captains after long service from the Lane County Sheriff’s Office.