CINCINNATI — “A smile hides a lot. You don’t know what that veteran is going through,” Montriel Bishop said Wednesday.
But Bishop’s smile on graduation day showed it all.
“I made some mistakes and it cost me some time,” Bishop said.
But Wednesday was a new beginning.
“It feels pretty liberating to be on my own time again,” said the Army veteran, one of four men who made up the 15th graduating class of Hamilton County Veterans Court.
“I’ve got some family to get to, so I’m hopefully going to reconnect with them soon after this.”
Veterans Court, run by Judge Ethna Cooper, is a two-year program for military veterans that can include treatment in lieu of conviction.
The program aims to address the underlying issues that led to that veteran’s contact with the criminal justice system. It’s individualized for each veteran.
But it’s not easy, Bishop said.
“As an individual, it was rough getting used to the scheduling and the meetings and having the commitment first with myself, because I had to commit to myself to do any of this. Then, being committed to them.
“Success, it came from tools, and no, I’m not talking about mechanical wrenches and things like that. Tools like mental tools,” Bishop said.
“This court is a new beginning,” Cooper said. “It’s a second chance. It’s a recognition of their service to their country.”
Bishop had a message for other veterans:
Stand together, and stay positive.
“We are mentally strong, trained to endure a lot, suck it up and go, but we do need each other,” he said. “We do need that positive energy.”
Bishop said he wants to support the next group that comes through Veterans Court.
“I plan to not be here again, only to visit sometime. I won’t have to be sitting in jury box, but I’ll be sitting in the room, maybe talking to the other veterans and pushing them like I was pushed.”