ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County’s first nationally certified “Justice for Vets” mentor will be honored by Sessions Judge J.Todd Ross during a ceremony Wednesday afternoon in his courtroom.
A lifelong Hawkins County resident, Ron W. Light served in the U.S. Army in Operation Desert Storm and continued to serve in the National Guard until 2010.
Light has a long history of assisting fellow veterans with service-related issues such as applying for and receiving benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Since volunteering to implement a Veterans Mentor Program in Hawkins County Sessions Court, Light has provided assistance to veterans who find themselves in the court system for issues such as substance abuse and domestic violence.
Ross noted that one in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment, and one in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffer from substance abuse.
Research continues to draw a link between substance abuse and combat-related mental illness, Ross added.
Left untreated, mental health disorders common among veterans can directly lead to involvement in the criminal justice system.
Through the Veterans Mentor Program, Recovery Court, and the Community Justice Program, Ross is making every effort to provide assistance to veterans who find themselves in his court.
Both Ross and Light have attended national Justice for Vets conferences and training.
Light has also been certified as a Veteran Mentor by the Justice for Vets National Mentor Corp.
Ross said that through the Justice for Vets program, Light is able to offer veterans assistance in receiving treatment and establishing benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. He also coordinates services with the Community Justice Program, probation services or other appropriate organizations.
Perhaps most importantly, however, Light provides veterans with a positive role model with whom they can relate and call upon in moments of weakness, when they just need someone to talk to.
“These programs offer defendants an opportunity to receive mental health and substance abuse treatment, counseling services, community support and other services in an effort to address the underlying issues that brought them before the court and reduce the likelihood of recidivism,” Ross added.
On Wednesday at 1 p.m., Ross will present Light a certificate of appreciation for his volunteer work in establishing a Veterans Mentor Program in the Hawkins County General Sessions Court.
Light is a graduate of Volunteer High School and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and an MBA from King University.