Making a Difference: Helping veterans reclaim their lives

Michael Ayres served two tours of duty in the Army.  
14 months in Iraq followed by 13 months in Afghanistan.
 
He had a family waiting when he came home but the battles he fought overseas followed him back; haunting him day and night.   He shares   "So I just went to alcohol, to wash it all away."
 
The nightmares and struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, continued and his marriage ended.    Michael says   "Which led to multiple DUIs and no way out."
 
Prison, it seemed, was the next stop for a man who'd fought for freedom.   Then he says he was offered an alternative   "They kinda pretty much scooped me up before I got locked up in the system."    His salvation came in Veterans Court.  
Watch the video portion of this story to see some of what goes on in the Tulsa County Veterans court.
 
The veterans in the program are still in the court system but rather than prison they're sentence is treatment and support.
 
Judge Rebecca Brett Nightingale says she knows it works   "Often the addiction issues arise from things that occurred to the veteran while they were in their service.   And by helping them with their addiction issues it resolves any criminal behaviors that they have."
 
Craig Prosser is a Veterans Court Mentor and says   "Overall our success rate is 92%.   (We) help them find who they are at their core and bring that out."
 
The program was born in 2008 when court officials took a look and found 158 veterans were locked up in the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center in one month, alone.
 
That statistic was unacceptable so they set to work finding ways to help veterans put the darkness behind them and reclaim their lives.
 
Judge Nightingale says   "I really feel strongly that this population is most deserving of our assistance."
 
Prosser shares   "It's like nothing else I've ever done with the exception of being in the military myself."
 
Now clean and sober, remarried, and set to graduate with his Environmental Health and Safety degree Michael says    "I have a clearer vision on life."
 
Michael has gone from surviving battles with insurgents, and personal demons, to truly living the American dream.
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