As a veteran since 1969 I must respectfully disagree with Erik Anthes’ column “Veterans court sends wrong message to public about vets” (Views, Sept. 15). Anthes opined, “We should not give veterans special or preferential treatment in the eyes of the law.”
To say we should not give veterans special or preferential treatment in the eyes of the law is disingenuous. America has been providing preferential treatment to veterans for decades and for good reason. Veterans have preference in federal, state and local government hiring. Disabled veterans have an even higher preference. Veterans have had a reemployment preference when returning from active duty. Veterans in many states receive free hunting and fishing licenses and state parks passes. Disabled persons, including disabled veterans, get free national park passes. Veterans also receive preferential treatment in real property tax assessments.
These preferences are not provided because the public thinks less of us but because they respect us for having performed our service to America honorably.
I also disagree that veterans should be held to a higher standard of citizenship. We are all human beings first; anything else we might be results from being human first.
If we can provide juvenile courts to intervene in the lives of young people, then why can’t we do the same for our veterans? The intent of a court for veterans is and should be an opportunity to assist a veteran who, as a human being, may have lost his or her way because of trauma they have experienced.
Trauma affects individuals in different ways. Just because a trauma-affected veteran served honorably does not mean he or she will have the understanding of their acting out, or even know where to get help if they realize they are spiraling out of control. A veterans court is an opportunity to intervene early in a veteran’s life that may be spiraling out of control. Mandatory treatment and supervised oversight for a veteran who has not committed a crime serious enough to require prison time is in the best interest of the veteran, the veteran’s family and the community in which they live. This is particularly so for a first offender, who has not committed a violent crime.
Trauma-related conditions will not go away just because a veterans court might offend some of us. The only other option is to leave things the way they are. If we do, then veterans, their families, friends and communities will continue to stand hopelessly by when veterans act out or are out of control from trauma-triggerring events that result in jail time. This is not what a grateful nation should want for those who have served us.