Four veterans completed the Delaware Mission Court program Friday and were honored at a special ceremony attended by their friends, family and elected officials.
The Delaware Mission Court is a specialized docket within the Delaware Municipal Court that allows veterans with diagnosis of substance abuse, mental illness or PTSD who have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, to take part in a specialized program where they are paired with a fellow veteran who mentors them through a probation period.
Four men from varying branches of the military were part of Friday’s graduation ceremony, and they were read a proclamation by Delaware Mayor Carolyn Riggle.
“…Many veterans return to civilian life with serious problems, both physical and mental, which can lead to their involvement in the criminal justice system,” Riggle said. “The City of Delaware has a responsibility to ensure that veterans receive the treatment and services they need and deserve to allow them to lead stable, law abiding and health lives as productive members of our community.”
Riggle, on behalf of the city, recognized the day as “Mission Court Graduation Day” and congratulated the veterans for completing the program.
“The Delaware Mission Court is excited to welcome (the four graduates of the program) as the next graduates of this program,” Riggle said. “These gentlemen have shown their love, dedication, and pride for their family, country, and their service (by) staying positive while completing their case plans.”
State Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) read a senatorial citation from the Ohio Senate to the men and thanked them for their service.
“We are pleased to recognize your graduation from Delaware Mission Court,” Brenner said. “Please accept our sincerest congratulations for your success in completing this program designed to assist veterans in the transition from military to civilian life and provide resources to our service men and women. To your credit, you have combined thoughtfulness and initiative in this effort to make yourself better…”
Congressman Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) thanked the men for their service and praised them for completing the program.
“I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done,” Balderson said. “We need you in these communities. We need you to reach out to us, where we can help as elected officials but also as communities leaders, as you are now. You are all now community leaders, and we need you there. You’re going to be able to go out there and say, ‘We did it, we turned ourselves around.”
Balderson gave each of the men a “very meaningful” letter from his office, adding he has an extra appreciation for their hard work because his girlfriend’s son is serving in the U.S. Navy.
Delaware Municipal Court Judge Marianne Hemmeter, who presides over the Delaware Mission Court, said the veterans in the court had reckoned with themselves, which is a difficult thing for anyone to do.
“Before you, you have four different veterans, three Army and one Air Force,” Hemmeter said. “You all served in different times and in different ways. It’s a combined 52 years of service and more because one of the graduates is still serving, but they all ended up here. But when they ended up here, they accepted the toughest challenge; the challenge to work on themselves, to own up to their very human fails and to conquer them.”
Hemmeter said the graduates overcame their substance abuse or mental health issues and conquered their mission.
“The toughest mission for these tough men was helping themselves,” she said. “All four of these men accepted the challenge and persisted, endured, and sometimes fell, but they always got up and they always, always kept their eyes on what was important — getting clean or sober. They dug in and did the hard work.”
Hemmeter joked that the next time she sees them better be when they return as mentors in the docket and not for a criminal case.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that what made you conquer (your issues) was your camaraderie with your fellow soldiers,” she said. “So on behalf of the court, congratulations.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.