About a year ago, I took a criminal defense appointment in District Court involving a young veteran charged with some drug and alcohol offenses. He already had a DUI conviction in Municipal Court, and he was on probation for that. This veteran needed help. His history and symptoms were classic.
He earned a Bronze Star with “V” Device while serving in combat in Afghanistan. While he wasn’t injured, several of the men he served with were killed and/or severely wounded in a Taliban attack. Watching men you know die in this manner changes you. He survived. He came home to a loving mother and a supportive girlfriend. He was smart, good-looking, and, from all outward appearances, was on the road to success.
But, he wasn’t. He couldn’t sleep. He had nightmares. He self-medicated with alcohol and marijuana, which led him through the justice system to me. He wanted help, but he didn’t want to admit to weakness. He knew right from wrong, but sometimes could not fight the demons that left him with the scars of war.
At that time, Mobile County did not have a Veterans’ Court. Plans were in the works, but nothing existed to specifically address the issues of how combat experience and PSTD related to criminal behavior and how to specifically treat those veterans in a manner that could help them not become repeat offenders. I went as far as to have this kid involuntarily committed for a mental health evaluation for seven days.
He decided to plead guilty to the charges and accept a deal for probation. He reported to his probation officer for two months and no one has seen him since. There’s an active arrest warrant for him as I write this. The good news is that things are changing for these veterans in Mobile County, Alabama.
We now have a Veterans’ Court and, the non-profit organization: Veterans Recovery Resources is stepping in to meet the specialized needs of veterans who suffer PTSD, drug and alcohol addiction, in addition to other issues that exacerbate these problems in veterans.
About the author: Ron McBay is a decorated military veteran of 30 years, and was awarded the Bronze Star twice for his service in Iraq (2005) and Afghanistan (2013). He has experience in military medical logistics, medical operations, and is certified as a Judge Advocate. Currently, he serves as the Regional Defense Counsel for the Southeast Region of the Army National Guard Trial Defense Service. He also runs his own private practice, McBay Law LLC, and serves clients in Mobile County. Ron provides corporate counsel to Veterans Recovery Resources.