New treatment court offers vets alternative to jail

(KTVI)– St. Charles County just began a new treatment Court, just for war veterans. It`s a growing trend to get people help, rather than throwing them in jail.

As I worked on this report, I met a military veteran with a compelling story.  Hearing his story, may help others understand the potential power in such treatment a program.  It’s the story of a St. Louis War Vet named Chris. He told me he was intimidated to keep quiet about fratricide he knew about. Chris fought back tears as he told me, “I think about it every day. Every day. And people say, well how, 365 days a year? That`s just how it is.”

Fellow U.S. Troops killed his best friend Sgt. Douglas Lance Fielder. The army told Fielder`s parents that Iraqis killed their son.  Soldiers like chris faced pressure to keep quiet. Former Senator Fred Thompson presided over the friendly fire investigation from the Persian Gulf War.  Thompson criticized a commander of trying to silence subordinates while engaging in a `cover-up.`

Chris continued, “This was a disaster with Lance. I mean the lies, the dishonesty.”

Chris said it took him at least two months to find the courage to tell his best friend`s family that he knew the truth.

He questioned himself as he asked me, “Best friend? What kind of a best friend is that?  And it`s not a very good one.  I`m glad I did talk down the road, but I beat myself up all the time for, I should`ve taken the moral ground, shouldn`t have let the intimidation and the fear…”

Decades later, Chris relied on alcohol, to numb his conscience.  A DUI put him in veteran treatment court.  He says it helped save him, partly because of the mentoring by other vets like Bob Murphy.

Murphy told me, “Most vets suppress. Who you gonna tell? Because people are going to be judgmental. Society is judgmental and consequently you don`t share with your family or other people other than another combat veteran.”

I talked to Murphy at the first ever veteran treatment court date in St. Charles County. Murphy stood with three other mentors who will help future defendants in the courtroom in which we stood.  He continued, “They can`t tell us `you don`t understand.` They can cop out to somebody else, but when they deal with us, we just tell them how it is.”  He went on to say, “He isn`t out here by himself. He is not unique. He doesn`t have a case of terminal uniqueness.”

Chris remembers that humor.  Murphy was his mentor, who helped Chris forgive himself and the military.  Chris said, “It took me a long time and I used to blame a whole army for it and of course through therapy and my family I don`t think like that anymore.  I only hold the ones responsible.”

Chris went through St. Louis City’s Veteran Treatment Court.  St. Louis City was at the cutting edge with this concept, which is only about six years old.  St. Charles County held its first Court date just a few weeks ago.

Congressional Hearing Documents

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