The story of a judge spending the night in jail with a convicted veteran has gone viral for all the right reasons. North Carolina District Court Judge Lou Olivera has used this all as an opportunity to speak out about reintegrating veterans, with or without PTSD, back into society. As he asserts, his actions were not about him, but about helping someone in need.
The veteran is Sgt. Joseph A. Serna, and though he has been awarded with three Purple Hearts and been deployed four times, he has struggled to return to civilian life. Diagnosed with PTSD and trying to stay sober after a drunk-driving incident, Serna was placed into the veteran’s treatment court program in Cumberland County, N.C. The treatment court targeted at veterans is run by Judge Olivera.
Serna recently admitted to lying in court about a drug test and was sentenced to one day in jail because of it. Not only did Judge Olivera drive Serna to the jail himself, but when he realized how shaken he was, he stayed with him for fear the situation would trigger his PTSD.
Serna explains to WRAL that the two had “a father-son conversation opposed to a judge talking to someone he’s sentencing. It was personal.”
“They have worn the uniform and we know they can be contributing members of society,” Olivera said. “We just want to get them back there.”
In a video released by the Cumberland County Public Information Office and shared by The Washington Post, Olivera explains that as a fellow veteran, he won’t let his comrades fall, whether on or off the battlefield.