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Veterans Courts Extend Service Honor beyond Veterans Day

The United States designates every Nov. 11 to commemorate the millions of men and women who served in the military, and Ohio’s veterans treatment courts reflect even greater gratitude of past service members beyond Veterans Day.

With nearly 775,000 former service people in Ohio, quite a few of those alums of the armed forces – Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy – work in the judicial system. Among those who donned the uniforms, many are now reunited with and helping their peers through post-service struggles in the state’s 28 specialized dockets dedicated to veterans.

“We try to reinforce the fact that we're just like them. We’re veterans. We’re here for them,” said George Waseity, a Vietnam War vet and peer mentor for the Stark County Common Pleas Court’s Honor Court.

Around Veterans Day each year, these specialty courts make it an emphasis to show their commendation to those who gave up so much for the sake of others.

Some courts provide mementos and keepsakes, such as certificates of appreciation. Others hold celebrations to recognize their participants, including graduation ceremonies for those who complete the programs. This year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, courts had to adjust with socially distanced gatherings and virtual ceremonies.

“Every time, this time of the year rolls around, it’s kind of like my pre-Christmas,” said William Page Layman, who works with four treatment courts as a veterans justice outreach specialist for the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Dayton. “I love being out with my veterans. I love acknowledging their sacrifices, and I love giving back,” the U.S. Army vet added. In hundreds of cases, there are those who successfully complete veterans treatment programs. Inevitably, many spend their time paying it forward to their band of brothers and sisters, and paying it back to judges and treatment teams who helped the afflicted through substance use, mental health, and criminal justice issues.

“One of my graduates-turned-mentor dropped off the annual VA Veterans Day poster to me this morning. It’s something that he gets for me each year, and I hang them in my office,” said Lisa Williams, the program director for Stark County’s Honor Court.

As much as veterans courts enjoy creating a special atmosphere and environment around the national holiday, their efforts reflect a year-round awareness and appreciation.

“It’s nice to have a day set aside for purposes of honoring our veterans, but they’re entitled to honor, respect, and gratitude 365 days a year,” Judge Ted Barrows, a U.S. Army veteran who presides over Franklin County Municipal Court’s Military and Veterans Service specialized docket.