A North Carolina judge sentenced a Green Beret veteran to spend a night in jail. But when he remembered his own story and all he had gone through, he couldn’t just let him spend the night alone.
Judge Lou Olivera, a Gulf War veteran, is a district court judge over the Veterans Treatment Court in Cumberland County, North Carolina. He had to sentence Green Beret Joe Serna to one night in jail for a probation violation.
Serna, a recipient of three Purple Hearts, is retired from the military and was having a hard time adjusting back to life after experiencing the battle of war in Afghanistan. Through his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, he turned to alcohol to help him deal with the issues he was having mentally.
“When Joe first came to my court, he was so tight,” Olivera says. “His shoulders were so tense. Over time, you could see his shoulders relax.”
When Serna lied in court about a urine test, Olivera knew he had to hold him accountable for his actions. He sentenced him to spend the night in jail.
But as Serna entered the jail cell, the painful memories of losing companions began to flood his mind and he felt this would be the longest night of his life. Anxiety gripped him and flashbacks began to play in his mind as the door closed behind him.
Without telling Serna what he planned to do, Olivera drove him to the jail and asked the jail administrator if he could spend the night with Serna. The administrator had never heard of such a thing.
“Joe was a good soldier and he’s a good man,” Olivera said. “I wanted him to know I had his back. I didn’t want him to do this alone.”
As Serna’s mind began to go to the dark place of being trapped in the vehicle and losing his buddies, the jail cell door opened and he saw the judge’s smiling face. “When he came in, I knew everything was going to be okay,” recalled Serna.
“I was at peace,” he continued. Olivera brought him back to North Carolina when he felt he was trapped back in the truck again.
Source Western Journalism