WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Serving in the military can leave wounds that are unseen and lasting and can make it hard for veterans to readjust to civilian life, leading to trouble with the law.
In a courthouse in Wyoming, there is a program that says if trauma is a result of service to country, then it is the duty of society to help.
Jordan Hull enjoys the fruits of domestic life with wife and 15-month-old daughter at his Wyoming home. But that life was not assured for the 30-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran after deploying to Afghanistan in 2010.
“Afghanistan was pretty tough for me. (In) my first two weeks, I lost my best friend to a drug overdose,” Hull said.
He returned home in 2012 to find he was not the same person as before he left.
“After I got out, I was kind of a jerk,” he recalled. “I was short-tempered. I didn’t want to be around anybody but other veterans because I felt like those were the only people who could understand you.”
He said he was angry and frustrated with the lack of order in civilian life.
“I thought everyone was lazy and just arrogant and irresponsible and it really irritated me,” Hull said.
His first marriage ended in divorce and his second was headed that way, in no small part due to his heavy drinking.
“What landed me in the Veterans Treatment Court program was a count of domestic violence. I didn’t put my hands on anybody, I didn’t hurt anybody. It was the screaming, the yelling, losing my temper,” Hull said.
He was presented with a choice.
“It was either that (participate in treatment court) or jail and I definitely didn’t want to go to jail, seeing as how I’m a prior corrections officer,” Hull said.
The Veterans Treatment Court has been in place in Wyoming District Court for five years under the direction of Judge Pablo Cortes.
The judge said post-traumatic stress can change people’s personalities and the way they react.
“I started seeing veterans come through more and more and they had problems and they were almost always tied to some kind of substance abuse,” Cortes said.
Court is held twice a month and participation lasts for an average of 18 months. The veterans in the program have to stay sober and submit to more frequent testing, as well as agree to therapy and community service. For its part, the court helps make sure veterans are getting the services to which they are entitled.
While the majority of participants are men, there are women, too. In addition to the typical military stressors, they may be more likely to face sexual assault while serving.
The program is working — organizers say 94% of participants reach graduation, the highest rate of any of the state’s 27 veterans courts. And the veterans love it.
“It was kind of like being back in my old unit, a brotherhood and a sisterhood,” Hull said.
“I don’t have any other person on probation that’s here on their own. It’s always because they have to. A lot of these guys will come in on their own just to participate and be part of the group,” Cortes said.
Hull said he remains friends with some of the people in the program.
“Honestly, without that treatment court program, I don’t think I’d be here right now,” he said. “I’d be divorced. I’d probably be in some dark hole somewhere.”