ST. LOUIS – Every month, we give out our Proud to Serve award. Tonight, we honor a man who served our country in the US Army for 20 years and now helps men and women who have been in prison adjust to life on the outside.
Sgt. Henry Allen was nominated by his wife for his passion and dedication to helping men and women through programs at Concordance Academy of Leadership, a nonprofit training and education program whose mission is to break the cycle of reincarceration.
Henry Allen joined the Army right out of high school in 1963, at the age of 19. He was following in the footsteps of others in his family who had served and just kept re-signing for four more years.
“The next thing I know, I was retiring with 20 years, 6 months, and 3 days,” he said.
Allen was sent to Vietnam in 1968 and, as he was going on the gangplank onto the boat, “that’s when the announcement came over that MLK Jr. had just been assassinated.”
Allen retired as a Sergeant First Class E-7 and realized coming home that civilian life was not going to be easy. He missed the discipline, structure, and camaraderie of the military mindset. And he struggled with finding commonalities with others in the civilian sector. But he landed a role working with ex-offenders, a job he says has taught him that everyone deserves a second chance.
Many of the men and women he works with now need hands-on support to get up to speed with technology advancements, job training, and so much more.
“When these men and women come home a lot of times with nothing but a bus ticket and the clothes on their backs, they are looking for a second chance, and a lot of times, they don’t get that,” Allen said.
Concordance Academy provides job opportunities, addresses substance abuse and mental health needs of ex-offenders to prepare them for their return to society.
Allen cherishes his role to make sure these men and women get transportation to access their critical paperwork such as social security cards, birth certificates, and state IDs so they can be ready to work following training. He also teaches them how to drive modern vehicles in a program nicknamed The Henry Allen Driver School.
Many ex-offenders have not been inside a vehicle for decades and they have to learn the way cars drive today. He gets to know each individual and mentor them throughout their training.
When he retired from the Army at 39, he thought the military was his dream job. But at 77 years old, he said he never considers retirement.
“I can’t because I love what I do,” he said. “I don’t consider what I do a job. I look at it as an opportunity to help someone.”
Allen receives $500 from Brown & Brown Law Firm and our Proud to Serve Award.
“The inspiration he exudes to people! Henry has a game plan and a mechanism to help these individuals not go back to prison,” attorney Dan Brown said. “I love it, I love it.”
Concordance Academy plans to expand into 11 more cities within the next five years. If you would like to support Concordance Academy’s First Chance campaign, click here.
To nominate a first responder, active military, or veteran for our Proud to Serve award, click here.