Judge Olivera, who once served in the Gulf War, now presides over the veteran’s treatment court program in North Carolina.
As a veteran, he has a unique understanding of the detrimental effects that war can cause to the psyche.
The veteran’s treatment court isn’t just a place for punishment, but rather an opportunity for recovery. If the law only serves to harshly discipline, then when does real healing begin?
Joseph Serna served nearly 20 years in the Special Forces in the U.S. Army. There, he earned three purple hearts—and he endured horrors that still haunt him today. To combat his intense PTSD, Serna resorted to drinking. And that drinking landed him with a DUI charge.
He entered the veteran’s treatment court program on probation and stayed sober for over 25 visits with Judge Olivera.
But the sickness eventually got the best of the vet when he tampered with his drug test.
As a punishment, Serna was sentenced to one day in jail. But this judge wanted to do something more to help the vet. The judge decided to spend the night in jail with him.
“When Joe first came to turn himself in, he was trembling. I decided that I’d spend the night serving with him,” Olivera told the Fayetteville Observer.
Judge Olivera drove Serna to jail, and the two of them sat down in the cell and spent the night talking about the military and its effect on life. Serena told media that it was more of a “father-son” conversation.
As a result of this act of compassion, Serena has promised to turn his life around.
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