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

“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 - 2016

“My life was a mess…alcohol played a big role in my life….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 - 2017

“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 – 2016

“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 – 2017

“I wish for the Court and Forum to grow strong & successful so they can help many veterans.  It’s a wonderful system that has been created!  Good on You!”

SVF Graduate: RA – 2014

“Through this process, I found a lot of problems I didn’t know I had.  But with those problems came solutions and support.  For the first time in a while I was getting help with my issues, where as in the military, we’re usually just instructed to “Lock it up!” And “Get the job done”.  I can’t tell you what this has meant to my Family and I, this has truly been a privilege and I feel lucky to have been a part of this process and watch it grow into what it is today.”

SVF Graduate: AA

“Its hard to imagine where I would have been without all the support and guidance that I have received here.  This program is not a cure or a free hand out but with a little hard work and determination anyone can find help here and I believe that all probation programs should be done like this one.”

SVF Graduate: JA

“This program has given me a second chance, not only on my criminal record but on my life.  I strongly believe I would either be in jail or dead if it weren’t for the support I have received over the last year….I hope this program continues to grow in the years to come.  I would like to see my Veteran brothers and sisters receive the support they need.”

SVF Graduate: TB

“From my mentor, to my probation officer, to my public defender, to the judges who have the humbleness to mingle with all of us that have messed up, and all of the speakers, also veterans at all of the forums, I have experienced love and caring and appreciation that I didn’t believe that I deserved.  And all of this, in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.”

SVF Graduate: JB - 2012

“From my mentor, to my probation officer, to my public defender, to the judges who have the humbleness to mingle with all of us that have messed up, and all of the speakers, also veterans at all of the forums, I have experienced love and caring and appreciation that I didn’t believe that I deserved.  And all of this, in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.”

SVF Graduate: JB - 2012

“I knew that the Veteran court had to be a blessing in disguise but didn’t know the potential of opportunity it had behind it.  With the support and resources that I have acquired from the forums and my mentor I have gone back to school and re-established my relationship with my wife and family.  So again I say thank you for everything that you have done for me I will never forget it.”

SVF Graduate: RC – 2012

“I think the veterans court is a great thing and I hope it continues to grow exponentially over the years so that it may help those Veterans (like myself) who are lost and in need of a listening ear and a little bit of guidance.  Thank you.”

 

SVF Graduate: LC- 2013

“…the most important process of the whole ideal with the Veteran’s Court and that is the Veteran’s Forum….It has enriched and changed my life and given to me the tools to keep my life and the know-how to help deal with my personal problems.  This year has gone by quickly yet has been so helpful, now it is my turn to pay it forward and to help another veteran who needs the help that I needed.”

SVF Graduate: CC-2011

“Without this program I have no doubt I would have kept drinking and making bad decisions.  I now feel I have the tools and support to be successful and be a better husband, father, and person overall.”

SVF Graduate: KC

“…nobody ever wants to be in trouble with the law.  But in a time where I found myself in that very situation, I am grateful that this program was willing to let me participate in it….I feel this program has made a positive difference in my life, and the experiences I have had during the course of this program have helped me to become a more mentally, physically, and emotionally capable man.”

SVF Graduate: EC – 2016

“So I want to say thank you to all of you.  For where 2 or more Veterans come to gather I will always have family.”

SVF Graduate: TD – 2012

“These people u see around you (VET Court & Forum), realize you’re different, they don’t make excuses for you, but give you the tools it takes to change, to recognize, and to adapt to the new you… they see the demons that you carry, they honestly want to help… look at what is being given to you, the guidance, instruction, and directions to places with even more people waiting to help you… I can tell u from my own personal experience, it’s one hell of an honor to be here.”

SVF Graduate: G - 2013

“I am very thankful for this veterans court [Forum] and I promise I will be a mentor.  Its my personal duty to give back to the program that gave me a second chance.  I made it.  Thank you to my mentor and thank you to everyone working in this program.”

SVF Graduate: JG-2016

“Throughout this program I have been given the tools and knowledge to make wiser choices to better myself.  I have learned my lesson and have improved my life.”

SVF Graduate: RH – 2017

“I thank the court, your honor, and all members of this veterans association and Forum to give people like me the help they need and a second chance for a positive life after the military.  I look forward to growing more, making new veteran friends, and learning more about myself in the months to come.”

SVF Graduate: CH – 2017

“I thank the court, your honor, and all members of this veterans association and Forum to give people like me the help they need and a second chance for a positive life after the military.  I look forward to growing more, making new veteran friends, and learning more about myself in the months to come.”

SVF Graduate: CH – 2017

“I have met many caring and real people throughout the course of this program.  It was wonderful to feel a part of something where others understand your struggles, there to genuinely help you and make a difference in your life. I never once felt judged or looked down upon for my mistakes, instead there was open arms, listening ears and friends to help at every turn.”

SVF Graduate: H-2013

“Thank you for providing such a unique and needed service for our veterans from the greatest generation to the latest generation.  I feel very fortunate to have been able to participate in the Court and Forum process, and am thankful for the opportunity to do so….I hope to come back as a new mentor, and give back a little of what I have been given.  God bless you all, thanks from the bottom of my heart.”

SVF Graduate: JK – 2017

“I would like to thank the Veteran’s Court for everything it has done for me.  It has really been a great experience, more than I could ever have imagined.  I would never expect a Court system to be so rewarding.  The monthly forums are filled with volunteers who truly care, and who want to help Veteran’s.  It’s a very positive atmosphere, filled with camaraderie.  It has given me a sense of belonging that I haven’t felt since my time in service.”

SVF Graduate: JK – 2016

“For me this court [Forum] was an amazing opportunity for me to step back and look at my life and the direction it was going.  I found that I did not like or actually approve of the turn my life was taking.  This program gave me the information and tools to re direct my goals and set a new path for the rest of my life.”

SVF Graduate: SK – 2013

“I can’t thank all of you I just want you to all know that this has given me another chance at life.  I will be truly thankful to each and everyone of you that were a part of this.”

SVF Graduate: RL - 2012

“I also want to thank all mentors, staff, instructors, as well as all the other past present and future volunteers that take time out, … from their personal lives to help us veterans get back on track.”

SVF Graduate: SM – 2013

“This is a Fantastic program that should be in all states.  It really helps a veteran move on from their troubles…I hope the Veterans Court [Forum] grows like a wild fire, and I am glad to be a part of it…”

SVF Graduate: SM – 2014

“This program worked for me because it’s the only place where the 4 essential parts of recovery and reintegration are pulled together into one coordinated effort….   For me the 4 essential parts began with:  getting priority access to care:  If you can’t get to the care you need or get the right care you can never get started….The second essential part for me was Treatment…I have only good things to say about my treatment….The VA helped me get my life and my family back – to them I am forever grateful….The third essential part for me was the Court Review Process…you restored my beliefs that our courts help people just as well as they can administer justice…The last essential part of this program for me is the Mentorship Program and Forums.  I intentionally used the word “is” because the guest speakers at the forums are awesome – it would be impossible for any one person to access those type of people on their own.”

SVF Graduate: DM – 2014

“So thank you all again for not leaving this veteran left behind.”

SVF Graduate: RM - 2013

“I can never thank you enough for what all of you have done for me and all other veterans.”

SVF Graduate: MM – 2013

“…one of the biggest things that stands out to me about this program is the incredible experience that the forum provides.  Being educational, informative, as well as entertaining, it offers membership to a strong community of welcoming veterans – and more importantly provides a vital sense of connection for the individual veteran that may be suffering and so direly needs it!  I feel so blessed to have been exposed to such a wonderful group of people with the genuine desire to help others succeed.  I truly admire what has been built here and proudly solute not only those responsible for its creation, but those that carry it forward on a daily basis!  If this program has taught me anything, it is that although our experiences in military service as well as many experiences in our individual lives can often give us deep wounds that leave no visible scars – we have also been given something much more important – we have been given each other!”

SVF Graduate: RN – 2014

“Over the past year I have been given a wealth of knowledge that I would have never made an attempt to discover on my own.  For this, I will be forever grateful to the countless number of People who are a part of this Veterans Program.”

SVF Graduate: RP - 2013

“I had let an incident in my life define me.  It took a DUI and this program to remind me that I am so much more.”

SVF Graduate: KP – 2014

“Having the opportunity to participate in Veteran’s court has made a big impact on my life.  As a result of Veteran’s Court, attending the forums and having a mentor, I was able to get my life back on the right track.…Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to turn my life around and work towards my goals and dreams in an alcohol free, clear mindset.”

SVF Graduate: CR – 2011

“I cannot say enough how important it is to have a mentor throughout the (probation) process and knowing that there is someone throughout the chaos (that) is there to talk to and listen to me….Thank you again for the grace and mercy that this court has shown me and I look forward to moving on in my journey in life.  I will look back at this time as a learning experience, and now have the ability (to) mentor others in a way I never thought I could.  Thank you.”

SVF Graduate: CS - 2013

“I must thank all of the folks that volunteer their time for us Veteran trouble makers.  Food donations are amazing.  The speakers all have done a wonderful job with conveying important healthy material.  I would like to have thanked each one personally.  I have a whole lot of gratitude for veterans and appreciate your service/sacrifice.”

SVF Graduate: CS – 2014

“It is with great excitement and humility I am writing this letter today to request my graduation in the veterans Court… I am honored to have been a part of this amazing program.  When I first entered the Veterans Forum I had no clue this program even existed, today I find myself very thankful for the program and the people who put some [sic] much work into it.”

SVF Graduated: PS – 2015

“My thanks to the VA Forum, I am quiet and pretty much a loner, but it only took a couple Forums to realize what an impressive group and organization it is from top to bottom.  My thanks to all the staff, volunteers, speakers.  I have always been proud to be a Vet, the Forum humbled ME and made even more so.  Thank all of you.”

SVF Graduate: CS – 2014

“…after my time overseas I had grown accustomed to having this comradery or togetherness during my tour with a platoon and a battalion, this type of feeling I grew to love like it was a tangible object I could hold onto forever, making it a part of my life, and making it a safety net to fall on when I needed it.  So when I finally came back to the United States and was finally released from my demobilization, that connection I had made over the deployment was severed, completely, and then the feeling of a hole within myself began.  However, what the Veterans Court [Forum] has shown me is that I am in fact not alone, that I wasn’t left behind, and that people do care about what I do with my life even complete strangers.”

SVF Graduate: JS – 2016

Veterans forums over the past year have been enlightening, informative, warm, and above all a sort of refuge for the many who wander thru life lost, as vets in our country.  I’ve been there, lived out of a backpack on the streets, held a sign for money on snowy Christmas eve’s, wondered where my next meal would come from.  I’ts hard as hell finding a place u can rest at night, that’s safe, so u don’t get beat up in your sleep.  The veterans court system, forums and the undaunting efforts of those involved, make u feel safe, offer you guidance and tools to cope and fix problem area’s, and won’t let you go hungry.”

SVF Graduate: TY

“I learned a lot of little things during forum that helped expand my thinking. The information I received allowed me to look at myself and others with an enlightened point of view.…Moreover I am thankful for everyone who volunteers their efforts to this cause.  I am a better person because of your help in keeping this program running.”

SVF Graduate: JV

“To fellow veterans, if you need help, come and get it.  Don’t wait until its too late.”

SVF Graduate: CW – 2013

“As part of the Spokane county Veterans Court Program, I am writing this letter to outline what I have learned from the program which included topics and issues discussed at the Veterans Forums.  One of the most important pieces of information I’ve take away from my involvement is the number of individuals, (community agencies, military oriented volunteers, other veterans) that are available to help.  ….Above all, I learned there is a network of people in Spokane that match the cultural fit I miss from my military experience and want to see veterans successfully transition into a satisfying and safe lifestyle.”

SVF Graduate: JW – 2011

“It is with great humility that I express my deepest appreciation and gratitude for your support, care, and concern.  When a member of a community falls, members of the community step in and help the fallen get back up….Thank you for everything.”

SVF Graduate: SS - 2017