Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

December 4, 2013

Program helps vets battle the darkness

WASHINGTON — Former Marine Cpl. Eric Gonzales doesn’t remember much about the night last year he led police in Orange County, Calif., on a high-speed, 26-minute chase that ended when he threw his truck into reverse and crashed into the patrol car behind him.

When he finally took his foot off the gas, he was handcuffed and later charged with DUI, evading arrest, assault on a police officer and more.

Still in the Marine Corps at the time, and living at Camp Pendleton, Gonzales’ first court appearance was brief; he argued with the judge and got himself ejected.

But then he finally listened to his counsel: “My lawyer recommended I go to veterans court” — one of a growing number of such programs that oversee criminal cases involving military veterans who were arrested at least partly because of an addiction or mental illness, most commonly depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

An average of 22 military veterans commit suicide every day in this country, perhaps the best measure of the mental health crisis among veterans. And 130 special courts for veterans in 40 states are tackling that problem.

The first one was started in Buffalo in 2008, modeled on the drug courts that have significantly reduced recidivism rates by substituting treatment and other support programs for incarceration.

Gonzales, who served in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, was facing a nine-year prison sentence, so he was eager to opt for oversight from Judge Wendy Lindley’s veterans court in Orange County. He “graduated” from the program in September.

On Monday, the 23-year-old stepped up to a podium in a ballroom at a Washington hotel and addressed a crowd of about 900 as the first speaker at the first national training conference for those who work in such courts.

Gonzales, a high school sports star from San Bernardino, had a college scholarship but persuaded his parents to sign the waiver that let him enlist at 17: “I joined the greatest fighting force I could — the United States Marine Corps!” he said, to a big round of hoo-rahs from Marines in the crowd.

Text Only
Opinion
  • Teachers unions' destructive behavior You can always count on the national teachers unions to behave badly at their annual conventions, and they certainly didn’t let us down this month. In doing so, however, they let down many of their members, along with students who are working hard to

    July 26, 2014

  • Workers of the world, curb your ambitions A group of Democrats introduced legislation this week to protect low-paid shift workers from last-minute changes in their schedules. The idea fits into an intriguing category of economic activism: Not trying to lift low-paid workers out of poverty, n

    July 26, 2014

  • State of the reunion ‘Katy! It’s been so long! How’ve you been?”My God, she’s gained so much weight I didn’t recognize her. It’s a good thing we’re all wearing nametags. I thought it was some distant cousin past due with triplets.“Bob! Long time, no see.”No hair, either.

    July 26, 2014

  • Fear indifference ‘Perhaps the Catholic church would volunteer to pony up some cash for the illegals’ care then? Hmm?”“Pope should stay out of it. Matter of civil laws, not church laws.”“Thinking that the pope should want the illegals to go to Argentina to get better

    July 25, 2014

  • A push for felon voting rights If advocates have their way, voting rights could be a new reality for the nation’s incarcerated.Full voting rights for felons is as hot a topic in Washington as voting rights in reverse pushed by voter-ID-tickled Republicans. But with new legislation

    July 25, 2014

  • Big insurers need better oversight Could Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. threaten the stability of the financial system? The U.S.’s top regulators are asking themselves this question as they consider whether Berkshire and other large insurers should come under Federal Reserve

    July 25, 2014

  • Questions for Obamacare after the ruling Tuesday, I outlined what we knew about Halbig v. Burwell, the case in which a federal appellate court ruled that subsidies for purchasing insurance under Obamacare can only be made available on marketplaces established by states. Now I propose to out

    July 24, 2014

  • Pensions not the problem I see in last night’s Register-News paper that James Rippy has attempted to enlighten us on pensions in Illinois. I also notice he has written so often he no longer has the title “guest columnist.” It is obvious he has the time and energy to work on

    July 24, 2014

  • Impasse threatens border solution After more than a year of contentious debate, could Congress be any more divided over the issue of immigration? The answer is yes.In the House, positions are hardening over what to do about the tens of thousands of families and unaccompanied young im

    July 24, 2014

  • Take a lesson from Texas I like to eat at blue-collar diners and cafes, particularly when I’m on vacation.It’s a chance to step beyond the homogenized national chains and experience a bit of local flavor.And being a reporter, I like to chat up local folks to find out a bit a

    July 23, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks