Joe Serna has spent a significant part of his life serving the country. He had taken part in the Afghanistan war. The courage he showed in the battle field brought him Three Purple Hearts.
However, this war veteran was going through tough times after he returned to his home country and had troubles adjusting to the life he left there after he joined the military.
In hopes of dealing with the stress, Serna turned to the alcohol and that decision lead him to the Veterans Treatment Court which helps struggling veterans get back on track.
The judge conducting the Green Beret veteran’s trial was a veteran himself. Because Serna violated his probation and faked his urine test, judge Lou Olivera sentenced him to a night in jail.
However, recalling everything a member of the military goes through while deployed, made Judge Olivera empathetic and he simply couldn’t let Serna spend the nigh all by himself.
“When Joe first came to my court, he was so tight,” Olivera says. “His shoulders were so tense. Over time, you could see his shoulders relax.”
Serna knew it was going to be the longest and most difficult night of his life, as she started thinking of the fellow companions who lost their life in a devastating incident. Anxiety gripped him and flashbacks began to play in his mind as the door closed behind him.
While he and three other soldiers were driving, the road gave way and they ended up into the water. They knew all hope was lost when the truck started filling with water.
With tears rolling down his face, he says how he was the only survivor.
Olivera then did the most amazing thing. He accompanied Serna to the cell and told the guard that he was about to spend the night there as well. Those who witnessed what happened were left speechless.
“Joe was a good soldier and he’s a good man,” Olivera said. “I wanted him to know I had his back. I didn’t want him to do this alone.”
Serna felt relieved when he saw the familiar face getting closer.
“When he came in, I knew everything was going to be okay,” recalled Serna.
The two war veterans spent the entire night talking about their service, their families, and their lives.
Judge Olivera knew Serna was a good man who had to face the consequences of his behavior, but he wasn’t willing to let him do it alone.
“He is a judge, but that night, he was my battle buddy,” Serna said. “He knew what I was going through. As a warrior, he connected.”
This judge and this story remind us that the soldiers who spend time deployed serving our country don’t have it easy adjusting to the life once they retire. They do so much for us and our well-being that the least we can do is pay them respect the way Olivera did.
Or simple “thank you for your service” might be enough and can mean so much to them, especially when they face rough periods in life.