Veterans GOOD NEWS for Feb. 25

Veterans GOOD NEWS for Feb. 25

Good news for veteransIn veterans courts, prosecutors become social workers for the accused (PBS NewsHour)
Since the main job of district attorneys is to indict and prosecute criminals, you might find it odd that many of those prosecutors are whole-hearted supporters of a system that acts to treat — not to punish — the problems of one class of offenders: veterans. I recently spent a few weeks looking into special courts for veterans, courts that have been set up in 220 communities around the nation both as a kind of payback for the sacrifices of vets, and as a center where those vets arrested for various offences can get help. The surprising thing I found was that DAs have gone along with public defenders, veterans organizations, judges, probation officers and a variety of social workers in supporting this unique brand of justice. In San Francisco, the DA is former police chief George Gascon, a Cuban-born American who served in the U.S Army. He says: “These are people that have put their life on the line, many die … And I think when our veterans come back, and they are harmed in the process, then we as a society, as a nation, we owe them that support, and that includes the criminal justice system.” It would be easy to dismiss Gascon as another San Francisco liberal. But he is far from alone in his support of the special courts, which are part of a tradition of “collaborative courts” for drug offenders and the mentally ill. I tried to find people who were opposed to the kind of justice the veterans courts mete out, who would argue that if a vet commits a crime, he or she should be treated as other criminals, and have to pay the penalty. But it’s hard to find those objectors. Chris Deutsch of the national veterans organization Justice for Vets says that when the courts first began seven years ago there was some questioning of their goals; the ACLU wasn’t happy with an “alternative justice system” for vets, and the Arizona legislature said the courts’ jurisdiction was too broad. But court officials — including the DAs — say the courts have proved successful, even though there are no national statistics on how well they work. In San Francisco about a quarter of the people who pass through the system “graduate,” as they call it, and are sent back into the community.

Help vets extend service through business (Military Times)
Opinion: “Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and weddings — these are among the millions of memories that the men and women of our armed forces forfeit when they serve in wartime. But what happens when the uniform comes off for the last time? What comes next? The greatest legacy of our recent wars and other persistent conflicts will be rooted in the post-service aspirations and achievements of those who fought. While many veterans will pursue higher education or a meaningful trade, we are committing today to develop and expand training and mentoring programs to empower those who find a calling in creating their own jobs, joining the millions of veterans who came before them as business owners. To that end, we recently announced a seven-year, $7 million partnership to leverage the corporate resources and expertise of small business catalyst First Data Corp. and the entrepreneurial thought leadership and training experience of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. This novel partnership will support the development of innovative educational and training programs that will expand access to business ownership for veterans, and provide thought leadership related to policy impacting veteran-business ownership. Data from the Small Business Administration suggests that in 2014 alone, nearly 25,000 service members participated in small business ownership training as they prepared for transition to civilian life. The pull to business ownership among veterans makes perfect sense. Where the rubber meets the road, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are as entrepreneurial as they come — a fact that runs counter to the perception that the military is rigid and bureaucratic. Our service members are trained to act and thrive in dynamic and resource-constrained environments. This ability stands alone as the foundation for successful business ownership.”

Group helps veterans heal through fly-fishing (Florida Today)
Jason Redler patiently watched and encouraged Russ Marek as he slowly wrapped thread around a fish hook and feathers to craft a fishing fly. Redler is a volunteer instructor with Project Healing Waters, an organization that works to help in the physical and psychological rehabilitation of military veterans with disabilities from wars. Marek, 43, of Viera, lost his right leg and right arm and suffered a brain injury and burns over 20 percent of his body, as well as other injuries when a roadside bomb exploded under his tank during a mission on Sept. 16, 2005 in Iraq. “It helps me out, and it helps someone else,” said Redler, a Gulf War veterans who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. “It helps both of us out.” Marek, who was a staff sergeant in the Army, and others with the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 453, are receiving instructions from Project Healing Waters in fly tying and casting, and eventually will go on fly fishing outings. “It’s a new challenge,” said Marek, who is commander of Chapter 453. “It expands your imagination. I feel comfortable. I feel happy that they are teaching us something new.” The Military Order of the Purple Heart is composed of military men and women who received the medal for wounds suffered in combat. Among those participating in the project are veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to World War II who this week completed the third session of fly tying and casting.

New service helps military couples cope after deployment (TWC News)
After veterans come home from deployment, experts say readjusting can be a challenge. From finding jobs to building relationships, veterans and experts say the key is finding help and researching the available services. One new service through North Carolina is aimed at helping couples cope. A couples retreat through the Salisbury VA Medical Center aimed at helping veterans and their significant others is a step that will help an issue among military families. “We do see issues everyday that affect veterans’ lives and their significant others,” said Ryan Wagers, a chaplain at the Salisbury VA Medical Center. Wagers says the retreat will work in a group setting and include coping exercises for others in similar situations. “Come back and there is that communication breakdown that exists,” said Wagers. It’s a theme veterans echoed at a veterans’ health conference Tuesday at UNC-Charlotte. “When I came back from storm, he knew exactly, I had two small daughters, he knew exactly the time to leave mom alone, mom needs to be resting,” said Retired Maj. Gen. Marianne Mathewson-Chapman. “Everybody is happy to see you home; however, they’ve done without you for six, eight, ten months. Adjustment goes both ways,” said Retired Sgt. 1st Class Jerry Dahlberg. Dahlberg also added that finding jobs despite a college education is another issue.

SC governor, National Guard fete businesses hiring veterans (The State)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and National Guard commander Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston are celebrating the success of their initiative to find jobs for military veterans. The two are recognizing 16 organizations that have been key in helping their year-old program put veterans to work. The event is scheduled for Wednesday at the Sysco firm in Columbia. Executive Director Cheryl M. Stanton of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce is speaking on what training and support is still needed to move the program ahead. DEW announced earlier this month that the state’s unemployment rate for veterans has dropped to 3.5 percent in 2014 from 4.1 percent in 2013.

Aspire Center for veterans celebrates one year anniversary (KPBS-San Diego)
Aspire Center celebrated a significant milestone on Tuesday. The center, which celebrated its one year anniversary, is San Diego’s first and only residential treatment center for young veterans suffering from brain injury and post-traumatic stress. “We are serving the wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan, so we see primarily combat veterans,” said the center’s director Debbie Dominick. “We are also very focused on being able to treat PTSD and mild to traumatic brain injury.” Kierra Clemons was living in her truck and going to school before she enrolled in the program. She served eight years in the Marines but didn’t have much of a safety net when she got out. Clemons will soon be one of six women and 40 men to graduate from Aspire Center where the average stay is three to four months. “They have transitioned back into independence,” Dominick said. “They’ve reunited with their families, jobs, school. They’re doing very well with their treatment here.” One veteran who graduated from the center said it gave him a distinct advantage because it limits the amount of people in the program so participants aren’t overlooked. “You learn more about the people that are getting treatment here than you ever would on an out-patient basis because you are really, truly living in the same environment,” Dominick said. Graduation is just one part of Aspire Center’s success. All graduates of the center have stable housing and almost half are employed or attending school.