The Journal Gazette
Saturday, November 13, 2021 1:00 am

15 graduate Veterans Court, praised for facing challenges

DEVAN FILCHAK | The Journal Gazette

Judge Douglas Fahl started his speech to Veterans Court graduates and their families with a widely used statistic – 22 veterans die by suicide each day.

The figure came from a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs study released in 2013 that led to a military suicide awareness movement called #22ADAY.

“I know that's a little bit of a depressing thing to talk about here today,” said Fahl, who presides over Whitley Superior Court. “But the reason I bring it up is because, in my opinion, this is how we stop it.”

Fifteen veterans graduated Friday from the problem-solving court used by Allen Superior Court and Allen Circuit Court. The program, which combines treatment and accountability, is for veterans facing incarceration on charges that stem from substance abuse or mental health issues.

Participants typically graduate in 14 to 32 months, Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull said.

Regardless of what brought them to Veterans Court, Fahl said Friday's ceremony was a time for the veterans to celebrate their success.

Fahl looked to the Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad field guide for advice that veterans, like himself, could relate to. He asked them to think about what they would do once the squad has reached an objective – set up security.

Every graduate is going to face hardships, Fahl said, and it is up to them to be ready to face those challenges head on.

“Tomorrow, start your security,” he said.

The courtroom was filled with family members and community leaders. Each of the 15 veterans were called to the front of the courtroom to receive a gift bag and a certificate.

The graduates also received a challenge coin to mark their progress. Gull later gave Fahl a challenge coin of his own.

Challenge coins can represent an organization or an achievement. In the military, they are proof someone is a member of a unit or served on a specific tour of duty.

Each veteran shared at least a few words to show their gratitude as they were recognized. One graduate said the program has given him “a new lease on life.” Another said she can now honestly say that she loves herself.

A line of about a dozen people who work on the joint Veterans Court team were waiting to shake the graduates' hands and thank them for their service.

“Congratulations on your new life,” Gull said to the graduates collectively at the ceremony's closing. “I'm so happy for you.”

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