Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Kind of Veteran's Aid

Don, the boys and I were walking on Main Street in Bozeman, Montana on a snowy June evening. Yes, folks, it snows in Montana in June. And every other month, too. But that's another story. We were taking in a little after-dinner window shopping, when a man walking in front of us careened around and fell backwards smack on his head. Our first thought was that he was having a seizure. But almost immediately, he bounced back up.

One whiff of his breath made it clear his fall was alcohol-induced. He didn't seem to know where he was or what had just happened, but he was walking and talking. We offered to call the paramedics, but he waved us off. We kept walking with him, because we were pretty sure he wasn't in any condition to cross streets safely. He was coherent enough to mention he'd been in Iraq. But the conversation quickly devolved into him insulting us for judging him for his drunkenness and not appreciating his service. He was clearly looking for a fight.

I didn't think our boys needed to witness any more of this, so Don and I quickly agreed I'd take them back to the hotel and he'd deliver him to the VFW, which was another block and a half up the street. We were hoping the other vets would know better how to handle him than we did.

It probably wasn't the first time this young soldier had picked a fight with someone. And he may have landed in jail for it more than once.

In a small way, Judge Ronald Croder has begun to address the issue of veterans with post traumatic stress disorder who run into trouble with the law, often for alcohol-related offenses. The retired two-star general has started a Veteran Trauma Court that is more interested in helping traumatized vets deal with life than in punishing them.

Bravo, Judge Crowder, for using your expertise and life experience to help other people. The judge, a prosecutor and a public defender are actually working together instead of being adversarial. Let's hope their good work becomes a model for other courts in Colorado and across the country to emulate.

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