Battle Buddies program makes sense
BY World's Editorials Writers
Saturday, December 29, 2012
12/29/12 at 4:37 AM
The program is only beginning but already Battle Buddies holds great promise for military veterans who've run afoul of the law, paid their debt to society and are ready to return home.
So far, 50 veterans have volunteered to be paired with other veterans who are incarcerated, recently paroled or recently released. These volunteers will help their fellow veterans navigate the world outside prison walls.
According to a Dec. 24 Oklahoman story, there are 1,480 identified veterans in state medium- and maximum-security prisons. Most eventually will be released. Some of the behavior that got them into prison often can be traced to trauma they experienced in combat or while on active duty. If that's the case, volunteer Ronald Pandos says fellow veterans can help those who slipped - those who got into trouble because they over-medicated themselves with booze or drugs and/or those who made very bad decisions. Earlier this month an orientation was held at the James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena. Yes, there were interested parties.
Veterans leaving prison should know that the program isn't a taxi service, Pandos said. Volunteers are available to help their buddies navigate the bureaucratic process of receiving benefits for medical, physical and mental health. They're there to help these recently released veterans find a job and to create a support system of friends and family. They're there to help them stay out of trouble.
Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon, secretary of Oklahoma's military and veterans affairs, is a big supporter of the program as she is of veterans courts. She believes that Battle Buddies can help veterans stay out of trouble and get their lives back on track.
Such proactive programs are important both to those leaving prison and to the communities that will receive them. Veterans provided the most important public service of all - defending their country. The least that country and their communities can do is provide them with the tools to straighten out their lives.
Original Print Headline: Great pairing