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Dedication Ceremony held for first-of-its-kind veterans court in Texas

Brittany Harlow

September 16, 2016

Updated September 19, 2016

ROCKWALL, Texas A dedication ceremony was held for the North Texas Regional Veterans Court at the Rockwall County Courthouse on Friday.

Colt Floyd of Durant is one the first veterans to try out the pilot program. He said they lost 14 soldiers in 96 days during his second tour in Afghanistan, one in his troop, many of them friends.

“They hit us with RPGs and machine gun fire and it knocked myself out, struck one of my troops in the rib cage,” Floyd said. “Killed him instantly.”

Floyd tells us it’s taken a lot of therapy to help him realize he was not in control of the situation, and the death was not his fault.

“On the ground you have that fight or flight feeling it doesn’t all set in until you get a little time to decompress and then you realize I just lost one of my best buds,” Floyd said. “How am I going to tell his wife? How are his kids going to react to this?”

Floyd said he didn't cope well with what happened overseas and got two DUIs in Grayson County when he got back.

“At some point you’ve got to come to terms with whatever is ailing whether it’s mental or physical and want to make some changes," Floyd said. "Otherwise our statistics for suicide are 22 a day and I’ve had those phone calls as well as you just don’t want to become one of those and you don’t want your fellow servicemen and women to become one of those.”

Jerry Wrenn is a Vietnam veteran and a mentor in the North Texas Regional Veterans Court system, now serving Grayson, Fannin, Collin, Kaufman and Rockwall Counties.

Wrenn said the system is designed to help veterans stay out of trouble and handle the issues they face adjusting to the civilian lifestyle.

“We made the mistakes,” Wrenn said. “We know where you are. We’re not here to judge you; we’re here to help you so you don’t make some of the same mistakes we did.”

Wrenn said the system provides veterans with treatment solutions and supervision as well as mentors like him. Veterans go to court together, which serves as another kind of support system. Once the veteran clears the program, the charges are taken off their record.

The idea of veterans court is not new, but the five-county, region wide system is the first of its kind in the country.

Texas District Court Judge John Roach, a veteran himself, presides over the North Texas Regional Veterans Court, driving to a different county courthouse from his office in McKinney every Friday.

Roach said an uptick in veteran arrests helped him realize the system was not helping Texas veterans enough. Other counties agreed.

“They were like well how do we do this?” Roach said. “And I said well I’ll volunteer my time if you volunteer the people in your county and we’ll make this work. And that’s what happened.”

Veterans must be general or honorably discharged from the military and have a mental illness proven to be linked to the crime they committed to qualify for Veterans Court. Sexual crime and aggravated assault cases will not be accepted.

Roach said veterans are also required to pay a program fee depending on their income, which goes toward the county their case is in.

An annual grant from the Texas Veteran’s Commission helps pay for what the volunteered time and fees do not cover, mainly programs that help rehabilitate veterans.

“I’m very grateful for the Veterans Court and the opportunity that they’ve given me and I certainly look forward to the days to come,” Floyd said.

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