On Veterans Day, George Ryan Again Is Taking Orders

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 12, 2007 | Go to article overview

On Veterans Day, George Ryan Again Is Taking Orders


Byline: Chuck Goudie

It's been more than 50 years since George Ryan was available for latrine duty.

When he was discharged from the Army in 1956, Mr. Ryan probably figured that his days of forced labor were over.

But on this official Veterans Day, the former governor of Illinois is under orders to clean toilets, swab floors, wash dishes or do something else to make himself useful while behind bars.

Today is the first of many holidays that George Ryan will spend at the federal prison in Oxford, Wisc., where he has been sentenced to six years for public corruption. Certainly the upcoming Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and New Year's will be particularly harsh for Ryan. But I'm sure today Ryan is experiencing something that he hasn't in decades: taking orders.

For those who are incarcerated in that minimum-security prison camp, it has been described as a military-style existence.

For former Gov. Ryan, it may be even worse than the two years he spent in the U.S. Army after being drafted in 1954.

When Private Ryan finished basic training, he was sent to Korea for about 13 months. The Korean War had ended a year earlier and while there were still hostilities, there was not hostile fighting.

According to the little information available about Ryan's military service, he was apparently put in charge of a pharmacy on an Army base so he could use his civilian training.

After Ryan got out of the service and worked at a family pharmacy in Kankakee, he set his sights on politics. Although he hadn't filled a prescription in years, even as governor Mr. Ryan enjoyed referring to himself as just a small-town druggist.

Maybe he'll get a job as a clerk in the prison drug store while he is at Oxford, but whatever Ryan does it should not be considered a happy occasion for any of us. As just the latest Illinois governor to go away, with the current governor at risk of indictment, and following a rich history of political corruption in Illinois, George Ryan's case is an embarrassment to those who voted for him and those who lived here under him. In other words: all of us.

When he was running for governor in 1998, Mr. Ryan vigorously backed passage of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban burning the American flag.

"Desecrating our flag is a slap in the face to every veteran that ever walked a battle to protect our rights and our freedoms," said Ryan, who fancied himself as a gruff old war vet.

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