JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two Jacksonville veterans say their lives have been dramatically changed for the better thanks to the veterans drug court program in Duval County.
The program aims to help veterans deal with drug, alcohol and other issues through rehabilitation rather than having them serve jail time.
Both men who recently completed the program were honored Wednesday in a ceremony at the Duval County Courthouse.
"Alcohol has always been a part of the military life. It was just what we did," said Terry Crider, who served in Vietnam.
He said he was in the program because of a terrible accident.
"I was speeding -- the rate of speed I was going was totally unnecessary," Crider said. "I flipped my truck five times."
Another veteran said he was in the program because he stole prescription medication.
"Gradually over the next three years, my alcohol and pain medication abuse progressed into a full-blown
completely obsessed addiction," he said. "By the summer of 2013, I was struggling to maintain my roles and my addictions, largely by lying, cheating and stealing."
Rep. Corrine Brown said she believes the program should be expanded because it has transformed the lives of so many people. She believes the program is better than a veteran having to serve jail time.
"When a person is a felon it's a negative for the rest of their life," Brown said. "And if there are programs, stakeholders that will work with you, I think it's excellent. I, of course, applaud what everyone's doing here."
Crider said he's thankful the program changed his life.
"I like myself. I am a different person," he said. "My kids see me differently. But overall, I'm glad to be me. I feel like I'm somebody. I'm worth something. I don't have that feeling that I used to have."
Crider said he wants to help other people in the program in the future.
"If they want to change, they got to want it," he said.
Organizers said there could possibly be another four graduations from the program in October.