For anyone who came in late, one of the most successful programs in Monroe County is the Veterans Court, a low-key assembly of concerned individuals, court officials, and military veterans who provide a way for veterans with legal issues to address the issues and rebuild their lives and work their way back into the community,
And so it was for Jacob Hodge, an Army Veteran who graduated with honors and accolades on Wednesday, January 16, 2019, his support team and mentors on hand, charging him with becoming a mentor himself and when needed aiding other vetes in gaining a way via the court to face and overcome post-service problems and obstacles.
“This is our first graduation in 2019” Judge Dwaine Thomas said, opening the proceeding. “This program is no cost to the county. No property or sales taxes are used. We do it at our own expense.”
Thomas said the “Vet to Vet Tennessee” organization had teamed with the court to provide “mentors” for each prospective graduate.
“It’s our debt of honor to veterans who sacrificed for the nation.” Thomas said “This program gives vets the chance to walk through post-service issues.” Thomas said the success rate of the Monroe County Veterans Court was around 97% and almost all of the graduates of the court had no further problems of a criminal nature.
“Most other programs,” Thomas said, “run through the criminal justice system and have only a success rate in the 20% range.”
Mentoring Hodge through the Veterans Court was Scott Drapo, a Navy Veteran, who described Hodge as “a great young man.”
“This court is not a get-out-of-court-free.” Drapo said. “It’s hard work. And the court asks that the next time around, the graduate step up and render aid to his brothers and sisters and become a mentor.”To Hodge: “We’re all proud of you.”
Click here to view the graduation photos. On hand for the ceremony were numerous service veterans involved in the court, including Vietnam veteran Taylor Thomas, Bob Hatley, Melvin Brooks, Randall Scott, Don Smith, plus County Commissioners Bill Shadden and Roger Thomas, Veterans Service Officers Andy Boyd, County Mayor Mitch Ingram, Mayoral Assistant Stacy Chambers, Chief Deputy Chris White, Vonore Mayor Bob Lovingood, Vonore Police Chief Robby Lovingood, and County Commissioner and Economic Development Director Richard Kirkland.