Soldiers, connected through Big Brothers Big Sisters, reunite after years apart

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Posted at 8:55 AM, Feb 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 15:17:17-05

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Two Clarksville men who forged a special friendship more than a dozen years ago were reunited recently with the help of the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.

DeSean Saine was about 12 years old when he first met Joseph Gilliam. DeSean says you could describe his youth as troubled and he needed someone to help him find direction and make better choices for his life. Meanwhile, Gilliam was a teacher and retired Army veteran who volunteered with BBBS. The two were matched as part of the mentoring program in Clarksville.

"We went out for an hour to the movies just to grab food, just to have somebody to talk to that really meant a lot to me," Saine recalled.

Gilliam, who mentored kids through BBBS for twenty years said to Saine, "I saw something in you and I hoped I helped develop it and bring it out. I want kids not to end up on commerce street at the county jail." Saine says those visits had a profound impact on his life.

Saine returned to Clarksville last month to visit family and says as he was driving around his old neighborhood when he realized that he had never properly thanked Gilliam for helping him grow up. He credits Gilliam for leading him to the Army, which has positively directed his life and he’s now stationed at Fort Bragg. Saine immediately called the BBBS for help. They were able to track down Gilliam and arranged for a meeting at the Clarksville Public Library last week.

"Good to see you sir," said Saine. The two hugged and sat at a table for nearly an hour catching up.

"I'm really glad to hear that you’re in the Army. I feel like crying, I'm just so proud of you especially in the military," Gilliam said to Saine through tears.

"He had a whole family and job and still took the time for me. I realized the effort he put in and the least I can do was to take an hour or two out of my time to say thank you," Saine said.

The two exchanged cell phone numbers and vowed not to lose touch again.

“Some community will be enhanced because you call it home,” Gilliam said to Saine.

“Thank you, Mr. Gilliam...I'll try my best," Saine replied.

Currently, there are twenty kids ready to be placed with mentors in Clarksville and the BBBS needs volunteers.

“It drives home the point. These small conversations make a difference, even 15 years down the road," said Chris Buerck, director of BBBS in Clarksville.

The organization is in many cities across the country. If you're interested in getting involved, visit the BBBS website.