CHARLES TOWN Youth members of the Jefferson County Juvenile Drug Court program met at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Charles Town last Thursday evening for dinner in honor of Veteran's Day. Nearly a dozen young men and women, along with their parents, ate with and listened to information presented by local veterans.
The program, begun in 2012, has a mission stating: "Through judicial accountability, the Eastern Panhandle Juvenile Drug Court works to reduce juvenile substance abuse and delinquent acts through a collaborative community effort and with supportive programs of intervention that work toward eliminating substance use and related problems of our area youth and their families."
The youth came from their weekly court appearance with Judge David Greenberg to enjoy dinner at the VFW. They were welcomed by Post member Byron Royal, who welcomed them on behalf of the entire Post.
Probation Officer Shannon Travis, who works with the juvenile court, shared that the participants in the court program had written two letters to veterans before coming to the dinner.
"Each of them wrote two letters, one to a wounded warrior and one to a deployed soldier," she said. The letters were written on behalf of the USO letter writing campaign, she said.
Royal, who had in his military career been deployed overseas, told the youth, "I received letters from students when I was deployed. I have them to this day. They still bring a tear to my eye."
He went on to share how important such letters are to service men and women who often think they are forgotten at home while serving abroad.
Following a pizza dinner, the group settled in to listen to the experiences of local Marine Veteran Alex Tice. Tice served part of his tour in Iraq, as well as other duty stations.
Tice explained to the group that he had always wanted to be a Marine and never regretted his decision to enlist.
"It is often a test to see how tough you are," he said. While he said the military experience was not always fun, in fact it was often hard, he said; Tice maintained he would not have changed anything.
Tice shared that now he is a student using money given him by the military via the GI Bill to go to school. He is studying nursing at Shepherd University.
"I was wounded in Iraq," he shared. "I found out blood didn't bother me, so I chose nursing."
A lesson Tice worked to impart to the youth in the room was that when bad things happen and a door closes, another door opens up to something better. Tice shared the story of his brother, Eli, also a U.S. Marine. When deployed to Afghanistan, Eli stepped on an improvised explosive device losing his right leg, right thumb and suffered significant burns. Eli was given the opportunity to learn to fly helicopters in civilian life; an offer Alex said came because of the wounds he suffered.
"When something bad happens, you think it can't get better," Alex said, "but it can."
Judge Greenberg reiterated Tice's message telling the juveniles, "You control your destiny. It is up to you to excel."
The participants in the drug court program range in age from 10-17, although Greenberg says most participants have been between 14 and 17. These youth demonstrate substance abuse or high risk for abuse and are charged or can be charged with any nonviolent misdemeanor or felony crime where underlying substance abuse may be a factor or who are substance abuse offenders. The juveniles in the program are referred by the court or possibly the school system and must be accepted into the four-phase program. The youth and parents meet each week for Drug Court where they take part in counseling sessions and then enjoy a meal as they did Thursday.
For those who wish to find out more information about the Juvenile Drug Court, contact Travis at 304-728-1973.