The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

July 12, 2013

Special court for veterans debuts

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"It gives me a chance to just find out where to go for help," he said. "This court holds me responsible and allows me to get back into the mainstream of life.

"Just knowing all the services that are available — all these people are here to help and I didn't have that in the past."

Several people, including Congressman Tim Walz, a veteran himself, attended one of the local Veterans Court hearings Friday to see what takes place. The court, which serves several counties in the area, is overseen by Blue Earth County District Court Judge Bradley Walker, a retired Marine Corps colonel.

Walz had words of encouragement for the six veterans who appeared before Walker Friday. He told them to get through the probation program and get on the right track because they have leadership skills that are needed in the community.

Although Walker has never seen combat, he was called from the reserves to active duty during Desert Storm. So he understands some of the challenges the veterans in his court are going through.

"When these folks talk about their experiences, I at least know what it's like to go through boot camp," the judge said. "I know what it's like to go through specialized military training and I know what it's like to be separated from your family and go through some of the issues that might cause."

Like Riggs, most of the veterans who get in trouble with law enforcement have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or have brain injuries caused by combat, Walker said. The treatment for those problems is different than treating someone for substance abuse, although many of the veterans have chemical use issues, too.

The stress that's caused by going through combat is challenging enough, he said. But the real challenge for many veterans is returning home a different person and finding ways to relate to friends and family again.

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