Will County sees its first Veterans Court graduate
By Brian Stanley email@example.com September 30, 2013 6:54PM
Judge Carla Alessio-Policandriotes congratulates Walter McCann on becoming the first person to graduate from the Will County Veterans Court program on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013. | Brian Stanley~Sun-Times Media.
Updated: November 2, 2013 6:12AM
JOLIET — An Air Force and Army veteran last week became the first graduate of the Will County Veterans Court.
Walter McCann, 66, of Wilmington, was facing a firearm possession charge before seeking legal and psychological support to deal with a lifelong struggle with alcoholism.
Instead of prison, McCann enlisted in the Veterans Court that was created last year by Judge Carla Alessio-Policandriotes, then-Chief Judge Gerald Kinney and Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow. Like drug court, convictions are expunged for someone who completes treatment, which not only helps them, but saves money for the court, police and prison systems, Glasgow and Alessio-Policandriotes said.
The program provides treatment, counseling and assistance to veterans who have faced issues with mental health or substance abuse since returning from military operations.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and addiction are sometimes the result of a veteran’s heroic actions, Glasgow said.
“We enjoy extraordinary freedoms because of their sacrifices. As a result, when they come in contact with our justice system, we have an obligation to acknowledge their service and provide them with the treatment and counseling necessary for them to regain their lives,” he said.
McCann joined the Army in 1965 at age 18. He served 13 months in Korea and 11 months in Germany before being given a hardship discharge to care for his ailing mother.
In 1977 McCann entered the Air Force and was honorably discharged in 1981.
In front of a packed city council chambers that included a dozen drug court graduates, local leaders, family members, friends and shackled inmates who will start drug court, McCann read a letter his son wrote him 25 years ago.
“My heart bleeds in fear for you,” the younger McCann wrote of his father’s “pain (and) hold of the bottle.” He expressed hope Walter would find sobriety and peace.
“I can only hope you will break from your cage and let your soul fly free,” McCann read.
The semi-retired carpenter said he felt very fortunate to have been accepted by Veterans Court and acknowledged dozens of people who helped his recovery.
Alessio-Policandriotes, who presides over both drug and veterans court, said McCann was seeking a “good way to alleviate (his) problems, honorably.”
“Before Veterans Court he described his life as ‘confusing’ but now life is calm and collected,” she said.
Alessio-Policandriotes also shared McCann’s immediate goals with the audience.
“Stay sober. Get a job. Stay sober. Go to school. Stay sober and get a license,” she said.