Judge Julia Jent has asked me several times to attend her Veterans Court at the Porter County Annex in Portage. What an unbelievable experience to share with others.
Upon arrival at 9 a.m., I really did not know what to expect. The friendly guards posted at the entrance of the annex ushered me to Judge Jent's quarters. A team of nearly 10 was busily stuffing Christmas cards with gift cards for the participants and their children. They had been made by the wife of the deputy Porter County prosecutor.
Shortly after being introduced to everyone, we were all handed a stack of papers that correlated with a large stack of files looming in front of the judge. Normally when you see a stack that large you begin to get nervous, but the attendees seemed excited about what came next.
Each file represented a participant, more importantly a veteran, who had gotten into trouble and the "system" was being used to help him out. Enthusiasm abounded as each participant was meticulously critiqued. Everyone in the conference room methodically put in their "two cents" as each life was discussed, both successes and failures. Solutions and plans were developed on how to continue to help turning these veterans' lives around.
After an hour and a half of mulling through each life the meeting adjourned, and I was told to stay for the best part. It was really hard to imagine how it could get any better. It was time to put faces with those files.
Never in my lifetime have I seen a courtroom filled with so much joy and excitement. Veterans, parents, sponsors and volunteer attorneys were all enjoying listening to stories of hard work in the fight to stop addiction, depression and struggles.
The only regret that I have is that I had not seen it sooner. Thank you, Judge Jent and your team, for what you are doing to make sure those who have sacrificed so much for us get a new lease on life.