Graduates salute veterans court alcohol abuse program
Redford Township Army veteran John Fields said a traffic violation sent him to Veterans Court, and he’s glad it did.
“I wanted to stop drinking,” said Fields, 52, of Detroit. “I was looking to get myself sober.”
Guy Pack, a Vietnam-area Marine and Taylor resident, also picked up a ticket for drinking and driving. Both men said the court helped them turn their lives around. The court also offered the men treatment and other programs to help them stay sober.
Both veterans took part in a local Veterans Court at 17th District Court in Redford Township.
On Friday, the two were among 11other men who graduated as part of the program.
“It helps the veteran concentrate on doing something ... more than solving one problem but solving many problems,” said Pack following graduation Friday.
Pack said his drunken driving offense was his first time in trouble and “it’s going to be the last.”
Judge Karen Khalil presides over the diversionary program for non-violent offenders.
Khalil told family and other supporters gathered in her courtroom for graduation that “none of this has been easy for any of them.”
“(The veterans) saw the objective and they met it,” she said. “I’m so proud of each and every one of you.” The judge said veterans were coming back from war or tours of duty with issues such as drinking and substance abuse..
On Friday, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein applauded the 13 men for completing the program and encouraged them to keep on their journeys toward better lives.
“Celebrate every victory,” said Bernstein. ‘‘Live your lives like a novel. Celebrate them for the good and the bad.”
Bernstein told them to use their issues to “educate others, to lead others (and) to impact others.”
There are 25 veteran courts in Michigan among the state’s 185 specialty courts which include mental and drug courts.
A recent report released by the Michigan Supreme Court that Veterans Courts in Michigan are effective in solving problems for veterans and saving lives. The report also found that unemployment fell 50 percent among graduates of veterans court programs.
“Court data support what we already knew from the many individual success stories — that Michigan veterans treatment courts are working well,” said Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth T. Clement.
“Not only are these courts strengthening their communities with every graduate they help, but they are also effectively serving the men and women who have so bravely served our nation.”