An anti-aircraft Howitzer was parked alongside an old four-wheeled armored vehicle outside the in Mineola this past Thursday. It was the 236th birthday of the U.S. Marines, but inside they were celebrating another birthday, that of a new veteran’s court specifically dedicated to cases involving discharged service personnel as part of the Veteran’s Day ceremonies.
“It’s a day where we honor veterans and it’s a day where we will will, I hope, embark on a new path, one that will make life for veterans in our community much better,” Nassau County Chief Administrative Judge Anthony Marano said.
“On the eve of Veteran’s Day, let us remember their sacrifices in our struggles against the forces of darkness,” Rabbi Anchelle Perl of said in his invocation. “Bless our country, shield our beloved armed forces in the air, on the land or on sea, our courageous sons and daughters who at this hour stand guard on the battlefields dedicated in the defense and dedication of security and freedom of the American people.”
Described as “a program designed to address unique legal challenges facing our servicemen and women” by Rabbi Perl , the court will be headed by Judge Terence Murphy, a veteran himself. It is estimated that 15 percent or more of veterans suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome or substance abuse.
“These invisible wounds of war can have a devastating affect, including behavior that brings many veterans into the criminal justice system, creating obstacles to a return to a stable and law-abiding life,” current New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said. “We have an obligation to respond by offering treatment and services to help our veterans get back on their feet.”
The idea for a court dedicated to veteran’s cases came from retired New York Chief Judge Sol Wachtler, who “has been an early and a strong advocate for veteran’s courts,” Marano said. “The stimulus for the Nassau County Veteran’s Court comes directly from Sol Wachtler’s vision, commitment and persistence in making sure that veteran courts become a reality here in Nassau County and throughout the New York State Court System. This is an obligation that we all have. We honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the armed services of our great country; we thank all of you who have risked our lives to protect us and preserve our freedoms.”
Currently the New York State Court System is comprised of over 4,000 across 300 courthouses and boasts a $2 billion budget.
“We have started this court in an effort to make our community stronger through successful, comprehensive rehabilitation of those who have given so much and often need so little to help them return to their lives,” Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said. “We got in this business to make a very complex system of justice more capable of protecting the community and turning around the lives of defendants who are interested in contributing to society.”
Lippman added that the court “grows out of a recognition of the challenges that veterans face in returning home to civilian life as well as their need for services to support their reintegration.”
Invited to the ceremony were a band of cadets from the New York Military Academy at West Point, who played the anthems of each of the armed services during one part of the proceeding, with veterans standing as their respective branch songs were played.
“We recognize that justice is blind,” Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said, “but this part recognizes we would have no ability to dispense blind justice without the sacrifices that were made by those that serve in our military, have served in our military and made the supreme sacrifice for our country.”