Spokane Veterans Forum Testimonials

“It was wonderful to feel a part of something where others understand your struggles and are there to genuinely help you make a difference in your life.  I never once felt judged or looked down upon for my mistakes, instead there were open arms, listening ears and friends’ help at every turn”.

-SVF Graduate

“The Spokane Veterans Forum (SVF) is a great program.  Due to the efforts of the SVF veterans are getting the help they need if it be Alcohol Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) instead of jail time.  I have seen firsthand how the SVF has helped the veterans in the Spokane community with the classes they have at the monthly meetings as well as having community organizations like Vetcorps and Spokane Community College present to help veterans achieve their goal of getting into higher education, which could lead to a better paying job or a job in general.  In my capacity as a Vetcorps Navigator stationed at Spokane Community College I get the privilege to not only help them apply for college and get into a program but also connect them with resources in the community as well as state and federal Veterans Administration.  

Recently I was able to talk with a veteran who was service-connected 100% disabled with un-employability about chapter 35 dependent education benefits for his wife and 3 children.  The veteran was brought to tears when he realized that it was possible for his wife and children attend college due to the benefit.  Since they are Washington State residents they may also be eligible for a tuition waiver.

If it wasn’t for SVF the veteran may have never known that his family could go to college.  This is just one example of the connections that have been made due to SVF.”

-Michael Cox

Community Colleges of Spokane and Vetcorps

“I would never expect a Court system to be so rewarding.  The monthly Forums are filled with volunteers who truly care and want to help veterans.  It is a very positive atmosphere, filled with camaraderie.  It has given me a sense of belonging that I haven’t felt since my time in the service”.

SVF Graduate

“My participation as a SVF Mentor in support of 16 veteran defendants during the past six years has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  I have seen that my efforts to develop relationship and to encourage and reinforce  positive efforts has made a stabilizing contribution to these veterans as they struggled to recover from the debilitating symptoms of PTSD, TBI and MST, and to put their life on a positive track.  

My experience as a veteran Mentor has been a “two way street”. I have benefited personally by becoming part of the SVF community of veterans and by developing rewarding relationships with my brother veterans.  When you guide/mentor others you are also healed.”

SVF Mentor

“Veterans Forum is a force for good, a forum for redemption and veteran’s support.  Having been acquainted with the program for the past year, I am most impressed with the dozens of mentors who rehabilitate veterans who have committed misdemeanors in our society.  With an incredible recidivism rate of less than five percent, the mentors are extraordinary roles models steering the veterans back to their past military core values.  Backed by a focused and thoughtful curriculum, Veterans Forum is a shining example of smart justice which gives a second chance to those who defended our country living up to the motto “Leave no veteran behind.”  Judge Vance Peterson’s inspiration, Judge Fred Aronow’s direction and Program Director Bernice Gutman’s stewardship has made Spokane’s Veterans Forum the largest veterans court in the nation.  March on Veterans Forum, your success is an American achievement.”

Col Brian Newberry

USAF ret., former Commander 92 ARW

“The VET Court is like a 5-way team: Myself and any Vet we’re given the opportunity to be educated, Vet Center, Forums, A mentor to discuss good or problem situations, a PO to mediate between attorney- prosecutor-court (monitor Progress) and a Judge to oversee it all.

Unlike other courts, this system seems to be designed to assist an individual instead of just awarding fines and punishment.

My impression is if you’re sincere, the court is willing to give a person the chance to get back on track.”

SVF Graduate: CH - 10/25/16

“Being part of the Forums has been a game changer.  With the lessons learned there and given the opportunity to go through Mentor Boot Camp was amazing.

I will never forget the names, faces and the memories of all who have sat in this courtroom over the 15 months.  Thank you for being part of this experience.”

SVF Graduate: MD – 11-03-16

“I was lost on the wrong path, looking for answers and something to hide my pain and anger through alcohol.  That was the wrong way.

The program has been a blessing in disguise.  I had to hit rock bottom to see a much needed reality check and understand the seriousness of my actions that impacted my life and my family”.

SVF Graduate

“I was walking through Hemmingson (new student union building on campus) a few moments ago and I came across this table. I read each description about a soldier who had lost their life. Most had PTSD and most had committed suicide. You and your group do such valuable work. Glad I can be a small part of it.”

-Dr. Mark Young, SVF Speaker

Professor, School of Education, Gonzaga University

“A recap of what I’ve learned over the past year:

  1. I am not sick or broken.  I am me.
  2. It’s OK to walk away from confrontation.
  3. When I am stressed/triggered – Go workout.
  4. We are not alone.
  5. It’s not magic.  Maintain – work to maintain”.
-SVF Graduate

“It is without hesitation that our organization, Northwest Golfers for Warriors, donate proceeds from Dan Kleckner’s Golf Classic to Spokane Veterans Forum. We have seen firsthand the “boots on the ground” support SVF gives to our local Vets. Offering veterans a second chance through guidance and education about life choices is the type of mentoring SVF delivers.” 

-Dan Kleckner

Member of Board, Northwest Golfers for Warriors, News Anchor, KHQ-TV.

“The Spokane Veterans Court Forum has been a great collaborative partner for WorkSource and other support organizations who serve veterans.  The court/forum provides support services that help mentors assist veterans, who’ve made mistakes but want to become productive, working members of society.  Their services reduce recidivism and allow veterans to restore their honor, respect and dignity. The Court/Forum’s mission directly supports and aligns with Employment Security’s vision ‘The right job for each person, every time’”  

Seth Maier

Veteran Case Manager at WorkSource Spokane

“5 year’s ago I was introduced to the SVF, when it was a sparkle in the eye of the veteran community.  I’ve had the honor of watching this glorious program grow to the successful organization that it is today.  I’ve seen the good the bad and the ugly through out the year’s, yet it still stands strong about the changes this program has brought to our veteran and civilian community alike.  Not only have I seen the changes in the lives of countless defendants/mentees, I’ve also seen the change in myself and the other mentors in the program as well.  It’s empowered me to be a better veteran advocate and lead a life that I can give back more to my veteran community in ways that I couldn’t have ever imagined.  I’ve been able to reach out and place the right resources needed to enrich the tools provided for our mentee’s and mentor’s as well.  I get a great satisfaction of knowing that my mission is not short lived and that I’m able to pave forward with such an amazing team of carrying people who are on the same road as myself, plus provide the tools so that I can bring another veteran up to our road so that we can all walk together to accomplish the tasks at hand and build a better future for Spokane and our veteran community.”

Michael Carroll

Senior Mentor

“My life was a mess…alcohol played a big role in my life.  Janice from the V.A. introduced me to VET Court.  I agreed to the terms hoping to be a better person.

I hope someday I can return the favor to this great program.  Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be here if not for this Vets program.

I would also would like to tell veterans that are in this program, be true to yourself and this program DOES work if you give it a chance.  I’m proof of this.”

SVF Graduate: LS - 01/12/17

“I made a mistake, I broke a law that I swore as a veteran to defend and protect those around me.  We were all trained to do just that.  And through this system, Veterans Court, we continue our training, through classes, the VA, and Forum where we talk with others who know our problems and pains.  I’ve been given the opportunity to better myself – and that’s what I’ve done… I was allowed the choice of a mentor, a battle buddy, a person I can trust with my life to stand beside me.  They are all here to lead from the front, to guide and show me the way, offering their hand should I stumble or require assistance.  I am not being pushed nor will they carry me on my journey.”

SVF Graduate: RR – 05-18-17