Greatest Judge Ever Sentences Special Forces Vet With PTSD To Jail, Then Spends Night In Jail With Him
Sgt. Joseph Serna is a former Special Forces soldier who bravely served in four combat tours in Afghanistan over his nearly 20-year career with the U.S. Army. Serna was almost killed three times: once by a roadside bomb and twice by a suicide bomber.
From the Washington Post:
During a tour in 2008, Serna and three other soldiers were driving down a narrow dirt road in Kandahar when their armored truck toppled into a canal, the Associated Press reported. As water filled the vehicle, Serna struggled to escape.
It was his fellow soldier, Sgt. James Treber, who saved him.
“I felt a hand come down and unfasten my seat belt and release my body armor,” Serna recalled to the AP. “Sgt. Treber picked me up and moved me to a small pocket of air. He knew there was not enough room for both of us to breathe so he went under water to find another pocket of air.”
Treber died from the accident, but Serna survived. He was the only one who did.
Even though Serna earned several military accolades including three Purple Hearts, nothing could compensate for all the pain that the rigors of battle inflict. The harsh and unforgiving landscape of war had taken its toll on Serna and he developed posttraumatic stress disorder from his time flirting with death.
Serna, like many veterans, is having a hard time adjusting to civilian life. The decorated Green Beret has had some issues regarding alcohol and was charged with driving under the influence. To try to help himself stay sober, he entered the veteran’s treatment court program in Cumberland County, North Carolina. State District Court Judge Lou Olivera presides over that court and unfortunately, he has gotten to know Serna very well from his many trips to the court. Serna has appeared before Olivera 25 times to have his progress reviewed.
Last week, Serna confessed to Olivera that he lied about a recent urine test and the judge sentenced him to one day in jail.
The judge personally drove Serna to the jail in a neighboring county. Olivera saw that Serna was trembling with fear as they approached the jail.
“Where are we going, judge?” Serna asked Olivera. “We’re going to turn ourselves in,” the judge replied.
Olivera, who is a Gulf War veteran himself, understood that leaving Serna in jail by himself even for a night may trigger his PTSD.
“This was a one-man cell so we sat on the bunk and I said, ‘You are here for the entire time with me?'” Serna told WTVD. “He said, ‘Yeah that’s what I am doing.'”
The two spent the night trading war stories from their time in the military. “It was more of a father-son conversation,” Serna told WRAL. “It was personal.”
“They have worn the uniform and we know they can be contributing members of society,” Olivera said. “We just want to get them back there.”
What a compassionate man who puts the honor in “Your Honor.”