Joe didn’t enter into the service of his country thinking about legal advice and the costs associated with attorneys and long drawn out courtroom battles. It just wasn’t something that readily came to mind. Bootcamp and the challenges it presents, leaving home, being away from family and friends, the possibility of having to go to war are what Joe thought about when he enlisted. Joe couldn’t find any meaningful employment to support his wife and two year old daughter. The steady paycheck, health benefits for his family and the fact that it was only a four year commitment that would reward him with a G.I. Bill for education afterwards certainly influenced his decision. Joe left home for training and was immediately deployed to Afghanistan afterwards.
It was hard for Joe not being home, not being able to hold his wife or daughter, missing holidays and birthdays, bedtime stories and Sunday dinners with his parents and brother and sisters. So the letters and phone calls home were something he very much looked forward to. It was hard on his wife. Every phone call home she cried and told him she was so afraid for his safety. She’d tell him how much he was missed at home. How much harder it was to be the only parent and having to do what he normally took care of on top of what she had to do. The phone calls quickly turned into arguments and eventually his wife didn’t answer his calls. Eventually the phone number was no longer a working number. Joe was beside himself with worry and hurt at not being able to talk to his wife or daughter.
A couple months later he finally heard from his wife but not in a good way. He received divorce and custody papers. A few weeks later he received notice from his bank that the account was overdrawn several thousand dollars and that his account had been closed. As the months went by he received letters from his creditors that his car payments hadn’t been received and that they’d repossessed the vehicle, that his credit cards had been closed with overdue balances. By the time Joe got home his life was all but destroyed. His credit was wrecked and his daughter was gone to who knows where? He received a summons to court and was ordered to pay child support. Joe decided it was time to get an attorney, but on his salary as an E-3 making less than $2,000 a month before taxes he quickly learned that he couldn’t afford one.
Joe was soon deployed again and this time he was shot several times in an ambush while on patrol. He was sent home and discharged with his country’s thanks and a Purple Heart to boot. He also came home with PTSD which eventually led to Joe becoming an alcoholic and drug user with an explosive anger problem. His friends and family were afraid of him. Joe couldn’t hold a job and eventually Joe found himself on the street. Joe sat on the sidewalk against a building staring up into the blue sky of a hot summer day and cried because he knew that the good guys had lost.
Eventually Joe ended up in jail. While being booked in the Sheriff’s Deputy asked him if he was a veteran to which Joe answered yes. Joe was in the housing pod of the jail when over the intercom system his name was called out and that he had a visitor. Joe was taken to a room where he met the local Veteran Administration’s Veteran Justice Outreach Coordinator. After speaking with the VJOC it was decided that Joe needed help. The VJOC arranged with the court to allow Joe to go to treatment at a VA in Sheridan, Wyoming.
Joe showed up just after Thanksgiving and over the next eight weeks participated in a treatment program for veterans with PTSD and other issues such as substance abuse and other mental health issues like depression and anxiety. He was seen by a doctor who diagnosed him as having PTSD and other mental health problems.
Soon he was medicated properly and was on the mend. While in treatment he put in a disability claim and was awarded a 100 percent service connected disability rating which provided Joe with a monthly salary and medical benefits. Sober and stable, Joe was looking forward to getting back home, but the fact that he had unresolved issues was causing him worry. His criminal case was resolved already with a successful completion of treatment which was days away, but Joe wanted to see his daughter and know where she was so he could be in her life but what could he do about that? Lucky for Joe that he is in Sheridan, WY.
On Wednesday January 22nd at 6 p.m.-8 p.m. there is a free legal clinic for all veterans who want to get free legal advice on issues such as divorce, child custody, guardianship, power of attorney, small claims court issues as well as neighbor disputes. This clinic is absolutely free and all consultations are confidential. The clinic is being held in Building 61 in the auditorium. Karl Jantz, Veteran Justice Outreach Coordinator asks that if you would like to attend to please call him at 307-675-3375 to tell him what kind of advice you need so that the appropriate attorney can be present for you to talk to. If you get his voicemail, leave your name and number as well as what kind of advice you need so that in the event that the attorneys during the two hour session are unable to speak with you due to a high turnout that they can put you on a list for the attorneys to contact you later. The attorneys are from Sheridan and Park counties, and many of them are veterans as well. This is the second year this clinic has been offered. This clinic is not for criminal matters other than traffic tickets.
Maybe you know a Joe? Maybe you are Joe? If that’s the case, allow me to say from the bottom of my heart how very grateful I am for the sacrifice and service you gave to this country. Also I want to say that you are not alone, that right here in Sheridan you are surrounded by a community that not only love you but that want to help you. Hope to see you there Joe.
The views and opinions expressed in this guest editorial belong solely to the author and not necessarily to Sheridan Media.