Vietnam veteran helps others transition to civilian life

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RED LION, Pa. — Pennsylvania has one of the largest veteran populations in the country. A major issue veterans face when returning from war is adjusting back into civilian life, and unfortunately, some end up on the wrong side of the law. A local Vietnam veteran is devoting his time to help.

Quartermaster of the Red Lion VFW, Terry Stokes has made it his mission to help other veterans. "We continue to give back to our veterans. The VFW has a motto, no one does more for veterans," said Stokes who is also an advocate for veteran treatment courts. He served as a mentor and helped a fellow veteran turn his life around. "I was so impressed with the process that I wanted to try to work at a larger scale, to try to get more veteran courts started, so we can help more veterans," he said.

York, Lancaster and Dauphin Counties all have veterans' courts. Stokes is now with working with lawmakers to get them statewide. Veterans who struggle with addiction, mental illness and other disorders, who are charged with nonviolent crimes, can join the voluntary program. They plead guilty to their crimes in court, and pay to undergo treatment. "Approximately 50% of the individuals that normally go to jail are repeat offenders. In the veterans treatment court process we are less than 10%," said Stokes.

Trying to transition from war to civilian life is a struggle the Vietnam vet can relate to. "To go from a civilian atmosphere, to military atmosphere, and bring them back and expect them to be able to cope, is not very realistic. We need to provide a structure for them, to allow them to get the opportunity to get their lives back, and that's one of the things that veteran treatment courts do," said Stokes.