Philadelphia Veteran discusses how Veterans Court gave him his life back


shadow

Some days I feel like I need to do more. I lay in bed at night and I’m just not tired enough. I ask myself “Did I do all I could today?” Then in my head I answer my own question “Tomorrow we fight again.”

This wasn’t always the case with me. After returning home from Iraq there was a long period of time where emotions and substances took over my will to fight. That’s not an easy thing for a United States Marine to admit.

After returning to Philadelphia from Iraq in 2003, it only took me four days to see the inside of a jail cell. I was arrested for aggravated assault. My drinking (and eventually drugging) had given me all of what I thought I needed to transition back into society, I was wrong. It was exactly what I didn’t need. I put a band aid on my emotions by using substances to get through each day. Those substances destroyed my life. I had seven arrests and spent a year of my life in prison. I lost my family and what hurt the most was not being with my daughter for the first four years of her young life. Something had to change, if I was going survive.

After my final arrest, I was put into the Philadelphia Veterans Court. There is no question it saved my life. For the first time since returning home, I looked to my left and right and I was surrounded by what I was missing the most in my life: the feeling of having a mission with my brothers.

In the Philadelphia Veterans Court, I found other Veterans who were all working on the same mission, the mission of recovery. Not every Veteran struggles upon returning from the places we have been, but there are quite a few who need some help. Help is what we get in Veterans Treatment Courts. There are several services inside the court room that help us get back on our feet, whether it’s VA, the Department of Behavior Health, the Vet Center or a Veterans service organization like the VFW. They all provide on-the-spot service to us, and it makes a world of difference to a Veteran who is struggling.

My life began to change. The hopelessness turned into a sense of pride that all of us in the court were leaning on each other to get through each day. After graduation from the Philadelphia Veterans Court, I decided to stick around and continue to be a volunteer for the new Veterans that come into court each week. Every day, I am lucky enough to once again be on a mission. Every day, I truly give it my all to the Veterans that find themselves in our court. My mission of recovery isn’t just about me, it’s about the younger version of me who is about to see the inside of a jail cell for the first time, just like I did.

What Veterans courts do is make sure the Veterans don’t see the inside of those jail cells more than once.

Make no mistake about it, Veterans Treatment Courts are not a slap on the wrist for Veterans. Judge Patrick Dugan, who is the judge in our court in Philadelphia, always says to the new Veteran who is in front of him in court “I need you back to being the person you were when you raised your right hand and swore to defend this country and today we start that mission”.

The Veterans who come through these courts earn a new way of living. Anybody who questions that should attend a Veterans Court graduation and see the gratitude from not only the Veteran, but the mothers, fathers, and countless family members who can sleep better at night knowing their Veteran is healthy again both mentally and physically.

I see it every day when I walk through my front door after a long day of helping my brothers and sisters on their recovery mission, when my daughter who walks over to me and hugs me because she knows her daddy is back and doing well. Moments like that hug from her are only possible because of the help I got in Philadelphia Veterans Court.

I live my life one day at a time now. I was at an event at the White House a few months ago and I heard President Obama quote Mahatma Gandhi by saying “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”.

Today and every day I will do my best to get lost.

Semper Fi.

 


Timothy Wynn is the Philadelphia Veterans Court mentor coordinator and a proud graduate of the court where he now serves others.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Acidicsoul    

    I spent 8 years getting my honorable discharge after 5th sfg kicked me to the curb in 2003, I was on paxil, and apathetic, but only a commo support guy…So I feel you, did jail, bush and empty house sleeping, and still struggle today.. “22” a day, unexceptible…u know what I mean. Godbless,

  2. Raquib Abduallah    

    Hi thank you! Not just for your service, your willingness to pay it forward says a lot about you.
    In case you are wondering who I am it’s Raquib Abduallah,your fellow Veteran and Mentor Coordinator for the Phoenix and Mesa Courts.
    Justice for Vets!

  3. Larry Moore    

    I am a Viet Nam Marine combat vet of ’66, I have been battling the VA ever since I was discharged in ’67. I filed my 1st claim in 2/67. Denied for nervous condition, reason given anti-social behavior. Blackballed for reporting wrong doings in boot camp at P.I. and later on for getting code red’s . I suffered from those attacks. In Nam I witnessed war crime like RAPE of 2 little girls by so called marines. Mistreatment of prisoners by Marines reported all of the things I saw that was wrong under the threat of death from fellow Marines. Caught a Sgt. Major trading in black-marketing reported Him and got in trouble for doing my job as a MP. I was proud to have served my country then and would do so now!! I suffer from PTSD and an expert in this field says I have the worst kind and the VA still denies me !! A whistle blower may never get justice but I will not quit fighting them . SEMPER FI

  4. Candice Nesbitt    

    Sounds like an AWESOME program!

  5. Lynne Patrick    

    I volunteer as a mentor in the Collin County Texas Veterans Treatment Court along with many Veteran volunteers. I want to give special thanks to Judge John Roach, 296th District Court for volunteering his time to preside over 5 north Texas VTCs. He has a sincere dedication and compassion to Veterans and ensures they all have the resources to succeed in the program. Many times I’ve heard the graduates say the program saved their lives.

  6. Frank Goebel    

    First of All ~ Thank You and All The Men and Women Serving Today and Those Retired!

    I am a Retired Vet of the 1st Gulf War and I get it. I was unemployed for almost a year
    after Retiring from the USAF and it was the worst year of my life. My sister and her Family created a Home for me to soften the transition period and Help point out the Positive in My Life when All I seemed to be hearing was “NO.” in 1992.

    It took a long time for the ‘voices’ to quiet in my Head so I could hear My Initution blazing my Path Forward.

    After a Successful Career as a Broker/Financial Planner with American Funds I left Corporate America behind and Launched my Private Practice ~ Life4orceTouch….
    Your Massage Resource.

    Frank

  7. harry crawford    

    I like you had a choice to make after transitioning from active service….i thank God for direction and people like yourself along with the efforts of the Veterans Administration in helping heal wounds visible or not affecting us service men and women attempting to return to NORMAL. Thanks

  8. Dennis Laughlin    

    I’m a Vietnam veteran who, not so coincidentally, became a raging alcoholic. Being a hard case, knowing that I knew more than anybody else, I was married and divorced three times. But in my head, I didn’t have a problem. THEY did. I’ve made just about every mistake a man can make. It is programs like this that help the “Brotherhood” and common issues we face.
    I’m now a Veterans Service Officer in my county, and it’s the best job I’ve ever had. I have the honor of being an advocate for all veterans, and having been down some of those dark roads, I can so relate to their pride or pain.
    God bless you sir, for what you do.

    1. Megan Moloney    

      Thank you, Dennis, for sharing your comment and for continuing to serve your fellow Veterans.

  9. Kevin Jones    

    Our mission is never over, it only changes shape.

  10. @MPOliver    

    Another “Court” has given me back mine; CAVC or as we should know it; The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, but it’s been a long journey: from 1968 to 2016, and hopefully will end in 2016 albeit no guaranty yet as “the final medical appointment” is yet to come although it is under the Court’s “Order” for “Expeditious Treatment”; beyond the eleven year wait from date of filing on this Claim. Fortunately for TBI’s (Traumatic Brain Injury) there is a “new standard” of diagnosis known as the Brain MRI et al. Glad you were finally helped my brother.
    3rd Marine Air Wing
    MAG 56

  11. Gary Creek    

    Glad you are home and thanks for your service to your country. I am a Vietnam vet and still feel bad about the home coming we received don’t think I will ever get over it.

  12. James L Chambers Jr    

    Wanted to say thank you for your service and good job fighting back. I feel like you are home now

  13. Edwin Blanco Maldonado    

    Keep on with the excellent and hard working sample, even on the small and simple task and accomplishments at the end of the day, they all multiply for the best outcome.

    Mission Accomplished..,

  14. Chuck Berg    

    Good luck and thank you for your service!

Comments are closed.