Judge Sentences Veteran To A Night In Jail, Ends Up Right Next To Him
A North Carolina judge had no choice but to sentence a US veteran to jail after he lied to his probation officer. Joe Serna, an Afghanistan veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was sentenced to spend the night in jail for lying during his routine urine test. Serna was given leniency and given just probation after he was arrested for driving drunk.
Part of Serna's probationary terms was that he could not drink and had to remain sober. During his spot drug urine test, Serna told the probation office that he had not had anything to drink but the test results told a different story.
Serna experienced several brushes with death during his time in the military but none were more traumatic than being tapped in a vehicle with his other men from his company drowning right next to him. Serna explained that he and a few men from his platoon were driving across a bridge when the road gave way beneath them. The water rose quickly, stopping just short of covering Serna's nose. His brothers in arms were not as lucky and the experience haunts the veteran constantly.
After failing his drug test Serna was sent back to court where Gulf War veteran Lou Olivera serves as the judge. The judge hated sentencing the man but he had lied and needed to be held responsible for his action. So, the judge did the one thing he felt he could.
Judge Olivera packed a dinner, grabbed some blankets, and joined the veteran in the cell for the night.
“I knew what Joe was going through and I knew Joe’s history,” Judge Olivera told CBS Evening News. “I knew he had to be held accountable, but I just knew…I had to go with him.”
It had just been a few minutes of Serna sitting in his jail cell before Judge Olivera surprised him with a loaf of homemade meatloaf and a change of clothes, accompanying him through the remainder of the night.
Serna said that when he first entered the cell he felt the walls closing in on him. The small confines of the cell instantly sent him back to being trapped in the vehicle in Afghanistan.
Serna said that once Judge Olivera came, “the walls were no longer there” as the two men talked about their families and their lives.
“He took me back to North Carolina,” Serna said. “He took me from a truck in Afghanistan back to North Carolina.”
After the night was over, Serna promised Judge Olivera that this would be the last incident that brought him back to court.
“He is a judge, but that night, he was my battle buddy,” Serna told People magazine. “He knew what I was going through. As a warrior, he connected.”
Serna had gone into battles repeatedly, and with each deployment brought equal amounts of pain and glory.
“I lost so many friends,” Serna recalled. “I was medevaced [medically evacuated] after some guy dropped a grenade on me. In the process, I lost a bunch of guys right next to me.”
I hope his story reminds you that there is still a wealth of love and compassion in this world. It's a beautiful reminder that, despite everything going on, there is plenty of good still in this world. Especially because stories like these often go untold or unnoticed.
Please be sure to share this one. I think we could all use the reminder.