My father was part of what has been called the greatest generation. I never really understood what that meant until I got older - and especially when I had kids of my own. That was a generation who thought nothing of sacrifice and hard work - it was simply something you did. Entire families sacrificed everything to ensure our freedom and way of life. 

I recently saw a picture on facebook of a family I know. The picture of was eight young men - probably ages 18-25. They were all in their military uniforms - all going off, or coming back from war. They weren't unusual - there were thousands of families like that all over the country. Because of them, I was able to grow up and go to a nice Catholic school, worship where I want, and go to school and choose my career. Every day I'm able to do something few people in the world ever get a chance to see or experience - to seek justice in a courtoom, and argue with words and logic and not guns.

We shouldn't thank those who went to battle for us - and continue to go to battle for us - on just one day. We should do it every day.

Unfortunately, many of the people I have represented over the years, are people who sacrificed themselves for us. They were willing to give everything for their country. Unfortunately, far too often their country didn't return the favor. 

The statistics show that roughly one in ten people in the criminal justice system have been in the military. It's not surprising - especially in our current situation. The veterans coming back have had to deal with the constant threat of being shot, bombed or ambused. Most of the ones I have encountered have had at least one bomb go off near them - and many have been injured, or seen their friends injured or killed. Many come back with significant problems, and its not surpising that those problems lead to involvement in criminal activity. I'm not talking about robberies, sexual assault and crimes like that - although those do happen. More often it's crimes like theft, drugs or DWI.

Thankfully, over the last several years the problem has been recognized, and is being addressed with veteran's courts. The department of veteran's affairs recognizes the problem, and is seeking to establish those courts in more places, as well as doing a better job of providing outreach services. Unfortunately, change is slow. Travis County was one of the first to set up special courts to handle veterans, and its been very successful. Until then, its up to us to ensure that veterans are treatly fairly when they make mistakes; it's not enough to simply thank for them for their service.

 If you are interested in learning more, or doing more, check out the resources at the Justice for Vets site, or the department of veterans affairs site. Today let's thank all of our veteran's - as well as their families who sacrificed along with them. Tomorrow let's continue to do that.

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Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.
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