The Cherokee County Veterans Treatment Court held its first graduation ceremony Monday evening, recognizing a pair of veterans who successfully completed the program to help improve their lives.
Welcoming everyone to Monday evening’s ceremony held in the old courtroom of the historic courthouse in Canton was Judge Dee Morris, who has also played a major role in getting the Cherokee County Veterans Treatment Court up and running.
Approximately two and a half years ago, Morris said the county began to organize a Veterans Treatment Court, with a great deal of support coming from both organizations like the VA and the community in general. Monday evening marked the culmination of all the hard work it took to get the program up and going, with the first two veterans to take part graduating after having completed the program.
Morris described the Veterans Treatment Court as being based on the accountability court model, but with certain military-like aspects. Since the first such court was established in 2008 in Buffalo, New York, the model has spread across the country, helping veterans in need who may have found themselves caught up in the criminal justice system.
“The accountability court model works,” Morris said, adding that the Veterans Treatment Court is one of the best things on the market.
Over the course of the program, which Morris said usually lasts between 18 and 30 months, participants are paired up with a mentor who works with the participant and keeps them on course. Mentors are frequently in contact with their mentees and are always there for them, allowing participants to bring whatever concerns or issues they may be dealing with to their mentors. Morris also cited statistics that, while those who take part in an accountability court are far less likely to reenter the criminal justice system than those who go to prison, the veterans who go through a Veterans Treatment Court program are even less likely to end up back in the criminal justice system.
Following Morris’ comments, both of the veterans were given the chance to share their thoughts on what the court had meant to them, while Morris presented them with a special certificate honoring them for completing the program and their program mentors gave them a challenge coin to honor their hard work and dedication.
The first graduate, a veteran of the Marine Corps and the first participant accepted into the program, recognized those who helped him through the journey and explained he wanted to set the standard for current and future program participants alike. He said this program has led him to have a more successful life, and encouraged those going through the program to keep going.
“It’s been a long journey, but a successful one,” he said.
The second graduate, who served in the Air Force, described the program as being somewhat of an arduous task, but worth it. He said his family was very supportive of him as he made his way through the program and that his mentor had been phenomenal, with there never having been a problem he felt he couldn’t take to his mentor.
“Good luck to all of you still in the program,” he added.
In addition to receiving their certificate and challenge coin, the two graduates were given a streamer to place on their respective service branch’s flag to commemorate their completion of the program. Along with the streamers both graduates hung on the flags, a third streamer was added, to remember those veterans who did not have the opportunity to go through the program, simply because it did not exist in Cherokee County at the time.
After the ceremony concluded, everyone was invited to enjoy a reception outside the courtroom to celebrate and honor the pair of graduates.
“This is my favorite thing I get to do,” Morris said. “I am very proud of our veterans and the fact we can offer something that has such an impact on not only them, but the community as well.”