Many people understand that returning soldiers who have served overseas have been through the unimaginable. However, that is often as far as it goes; no one knows the actual mental state or feelings the soldiers are going through. They have been through hell and back and no one really knows how to comfort those who are suffering so immensely.
Just recently, a soldier was in court before a judge. While a judge’s job is to release people from jail or put them in it, he had compassion for this soldier. Sergeant Joseph Serna had seen enough while being overseas, and the judge knew it.
Serna was a former Special Forces soldier who had done four tours in Afghanistan in only a two-year career with the United States Army. Several reports stated that the brave man had nearly been killed three times. He was almost hit by a roadside bomb and again by a suicide bomber.
During Serna’s 2008 tour, he had been traveling with three other soldiers on a narrow, dirt road in Kandahar. From there, their armored truck had toppled right into a canal, immediately filling their vehicle with water. Serna barely escaped the truck. Without the help of his fellow soldier Sergeant James Treber, Serna would have most likely have died.
Serna described it as feeling a hand come down to unfasten his seatbelt. From there, Treber released Serna’s body armor so that he could swim to the top. Treber picked Serna up in order to get him to a small pocket of air. However, there wasn’t enough room for all four men to breathe in that small pocket of air, resulting in Serna being the only survivor of the tragic accident.
During Serna’s years in combat, he earned himself three Purple Hearts and other military accolades. Like so many other combat veterans, he has been unable to leave the life of combat behind him now that he has returned to the United States.
Sergeant Serna, a decorated Green Beret, has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Due to this disorder, he drove while under the influence and was caught. He has since been charged with driving drunk. He entered the veteran’s treatment court program in Cumberland County, North Carolina. Serna stood before state District Court Judge Lou Olivera.
Sadly, Serna has fought himself to try to stay sober. He has appeared before Olivera 25 times in order to have his progress reviewed. Serna confessed to Olivera that he lied about a recent urine test just a week before. Due to that, Olivera sentenced Serna to one day in jail. Olivera drove Serna to the jail in a nearby county. He explained that when Serna first came to turn himself in, he was trembling. That is when Olivera decided to spend the night with him in jail to make him feel more at ease.
Serna had asked Olivera where they were going while they were driving. The judge simply said that they were going to turn themselves in. Serna immediately sat down on the cot in his cell when they turned themselves in. Minutes later, Serna saw Olivera standing before him. Olivera came in to sit down beside him and the jail guard locked the door behind the judge.
Serna was quite confused since they were assigned to a one-man cell. They both sat on the bunk and talked. Serna asked Olivera whether he was staying with him the whole night. All Olivera said was yes, that’s what he was doing. It turned out that Olivera was a Gulf War veteran himself and he was concerned that leaving Serna in isolation for a whole night could trigger his post-traumatic stress disorder.
To pass the time, the two men traded stories about their experiences in the military. Serna explained it as more of a father-son conversation, making the two bond. It was rather personal for the two men. Olivera explained that they both have worn the uniform and they know that they can get veterans to contribute back to society and be accepted as members of society. Olivera, and many others, just want to see these soldiers get back to normal.