Sunday, May 24, 2015

In 2000, Congress established a Memorial Day moment of silence—asking Americans to pause Monday afternoon at 3:00 as an act of National unity.  I am sure there will not be pausing anywhere. No one even knows about this pausing thing but we should do it. Memorial Day is supposed to be the day we visit the burial site of a fallen soldier. Someone who volunteered to risk their life in some war and lost it. That still has to be the bravest thing of all. Yet there are Memorial sales in every store urging you to go there and forget about the graves. Some people get paid time and a half if they are chosen to work on Memorial Day.  No time for graves or pausing. The American soldier returning home has changed too.

Society has changed. After World War II soldiers came home to loving waiting wives and were given them back their old jobs or were at the top of the list for a new job. Their deployment was for a short time and if a soldier had children they were sent home first to be with their young families and to pick up where they left off in life. Things have changed. Our newest soldiers have been deployed for multiple tours of duty some of them in the military for 15 years since 911. Divorce is common. No home or woman to come home to. No job. These guys do have booze addictions, and pain killer addictions and messed up lives now.  Should we pause for these new guys with nothing in their hands but Gin, pills and their Purple Star for bravery?

A classic example of the new soldier is the life of Staff Sargent Tommy Rieman who is a certified American Hero. He received the Silver Star for valor in Iraq. He was proud to wear an American soldier uniform and in 2003 his three vehicle convoy drove into a death trap. They were ambushed by 35 guys and most of his buddies were killed. He survived shots in his arm chest and legs. When he got home he traveled the world as a military spokesman. He even has a feature role in a combat video and an action figure. President Bush personally thanked him for his service at the State of the Union Address in 2007. You would think that it doesn’t get better than that for a returning soldier but in reality he did not feel like a hero as many soldiers feel. He was haunted by PTSD and Alcoholism.

He lost his marriage and child and house. Everything that was special to him. He was full of hatred and tried to commit suicide twice and survived that too. He had hit rock bottom. Now he was arrested for drunk driving but was sent to a new popular kind of court. It is called the Veterans Treatment Court designed for Veterans and the special issues that have confronted returning soldiers.  It is modeled like other special courts around the country like Drug Treatment Court. These specialty courts are designed to keep nonviolent offenders out of court. It is estimated that one out five soldiers suffer from PTSD and 1 in 6 has an issue with substance abuse.

Tommy got help with all those issues in court. It is the one court where you salute the Judge. It is a mutual sign of respect. There are now as many as 220 Military Treatment Courts in America now across 33 states. The first one was established in 2008. They are all mentored by other Vets and find even housing and rehab treatment centers. The program demands accountability. If the Veteran completes the rehab or treatments the sentence is reduced or forgiven.  Roughly 11,000 Vets are now receiving help through the Veterans Treatment Courts. 98% of Veterans have not been rearrested for crimes. Only now for that 98% do the Veterans feel they have a new beginning in America because now they have jobs and homes and a reason to live again. God Bless America when we finally do right for Americans and our most faithful men and women our Veterans.

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