Celebrate Veterans Day…..
Today we celebrate Veterans Day in the United States. A day to say thank you and pay tribute to all men and women who protect our country near and far. It is a good day for all of us, collectively and individually, to remember the trials and tribulations associated with combat. Armed combat duty affects each of our solders differently. Regardless of how one feel about fighting wars abroad, our soldiers are still worthy of our respect and admiration when they go off to fight on our behalf, and they are also worthy of our compassion upon their return.
In the seventies, we saw American soldiers returning from the war in Vietnam greeted with far less warmth and appreciation than they deserved. Today, soldiers returning from the Iran and Afghanistan conflicts often face similar apathy from war weary citizens. Today, our country is once again fatigued and disenchanted by an unpopular war; consequently our veterans are once again casualties of war, even though they might be physically back home. Casualties if they have encountered lack of employment opportunities or zero interest in their war experiences abroad. Often, our returning battle weary heroes are treated with a cold shoulder, or even worse, with lack of concern for their battle scars.
NOLA.com had an interesting article on Sunday past, concerning a program in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court tailored for veterans convicted of minor offenses. The program seeks to give these veterans a second chance. In other words, a way to find help in the community that will permit them to overcome minor scuffles with the law before these become insurmountable.
The program is the brain child of Judge Arthur Hunter Jr., who in 2010 saw the need for a program that would assist returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of Louisiana veterans fought in these wars. The program mirrors a similar one currently in use for mentally ill, drug-addicted and domestic-violence defendants. Judge Hunter has said he wanted to try to prevent veterans who had committed a minor crime from escalating to more serious ones.
Since its creation in 2010, about 28 local military veterans have participated in the 18 month program which combines random drug tests, case management and therapy. Eight participants were homeless when they were arrested. They now have housing. Only four have dropped out without graduating, a record that makes organizers proud.
To be eligible for the program, former service members must have been honorably discharged from the U.S. armed services and cannot be in a gang or charged with a violent or gun crime. The program allows the participants, most of whom have pleaded guilty to drug charges, to avoid jail time as long as they abide by its strict conditions.
The goal of the program is to help veterans who have substance-abuse and mental-health issues and give them the assistance they need to turn their lives around. There are many programs also available through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
In an interview Judge Hunter said that:”Much of the cases have to do with how they are dealing with the post-traumatic stress,” Hunter said, noting that many turn to alcohol or drugs instead of seeking counseling.
“It’s incumbent on our society to remedy their situation as much as we can,” the judge added. “I think we at least owe that to them for putting their lives on the line for our freedom.”
I think this program is a great idea. It offers veterans a way to move forward and gives the community a productive citizen. The program is run by a volunteer, who is himself, a veteran with 22 years of service in the U.S. Navy. The program seems to be an impressive source of information and resources for the veterans by setting them up with assistance available through Veterans Affairs, with housing, education, jobs, healthcare, substance abuse and therapy.
As a former Air Force Captain, I am very interested in this program as it obviously seeks to provide former soldiers with the tools they need to incorporate their lives into whatever new realities they found back home upon their return from war.
We are a country established and forged by men and women of faith and of hope. I am glad to see a program directed at and focused on veterans. Kudos to Judge Hunter. Working together within the justice system we can accomplish great things for the men and women who, at times, might have found themselves as violators of the very same laws they fight in foreign wars to protect.
This is Attorney Martin E. Regan, Jr. and these are my personal thoughts…