FOLEY, Alabama — Judge Michelle Thomason and members of the Baldwin County Veterans Court were presented Tuesday, May 12 with the Sons of the American Revolution Silver Good Citizenship Medal for Outstanding Patriotic Community Service.
Presenting the award were Jerry Green, president of the General Galvez Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution; George Kindley, club treasurer; and John Van Zandt, past president and state treasurer.
“We just want to say how much we appreciate what Judge Thomason and the Baldwin County Veterans Court does for our veterans,” Green said. “This program provides an invaluable service to help veterans get back on their feet.”
Established in 1939, the Silver Good Citizenship Medal recognizes outstanding and unusual patriotic achievement and service at the state and regional level.
The medal is presented to those of prominence in the areas of government, religion, education, business and other professions that go above and beyond in the service of veterans.
“This is a great honor and while I am the one accepting the honor, this is a team effort and really goes to the whole team here,” Thomason said.
Established in February 2014, the Baldwin County Veterans Court assists local veterans who find themselves in legal trouble, allowing those veterans charged with a crime to undergo a treatment program and counseling in exchange for a dismissal of the charges against them.
Working in connection with the local Veterans Administration, Thomason said, law enforcement officials have been trained to ask specific questions to determine if the veteran involved has been affected because of his or her military service.
“These are people who are dealing with addictions through attempted self-medication, mental health issues and post traumatic stress,” Thomason said. “Our job is not only to help them through the court system, but to give them the tools they need to return to being productive members of their local communities.”
The program lasts a minimum of 18 months and includes a mentoring program in which the veterans are matched with team members who are veterans themselves.
“I think this is one of the things about this program that makes it so successful,” Thomason said. “Mentors stay in contact with those who qualify for the program and oftentimes will keep in contact even after they have graduated from the program.”
The Baldwin County Veterans Court program has been used as a model and is now being used in almost every county in Alabama, Thomason said, with programs sharing resources.
“If we have someone coming through the court system here in Baldwin County who needs assistance in another county, we can refer that person to that county to get the help they need,” Thomason said, “and other court systems can refer veterans to our program.”
The program generally runs about 25 to 30 veterans at varying stages at any given time, Thomason said. So far, more than 250 veterans have been identified through the program, with approximately 90 graduates since the program began.
Baldwin County Veterans Court is held every other Tuesday at the Baldwin County Satellite Courthouse in Foley. You can also donate to the program through the Baldwin County Veterans Court Foundation, a non-profit organization.