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Joe Serna, a US veteran suffering from PTSD which he acquired during his time in Afghanistan, was arrested for drinking and driving and given probation. Part of the terms of his probation was that Serna was not supposed to consume any alcohol.

Serna was caught lying during a routine urine test and sent back to court where Gulf War veteran Lou Olivera serves as the judge. Judge Olivera sympathized with Serna but he broke the terms of his probation and so the judge had no choice but to punish him. Serna was sent to jail for the night but his story doesn’t end there.

Judge Olivera was so concerned about the veterans well being that he packed up a meatloaf dinner and went and stayed the night with him in his cell.

“I knew what Joe was going through and I knew Joe’s history,” Judge Olivera told CBS Evening News. “I knew he had to be held accountable, but I just knew…I had to go with him.”

It had just been a few minutes of Serna sitting in his jail cell before Judge Olivera surprised him with a loaf of homemade meatloaf and a change of clothes, accompanying him through the remainder of the night.

Serna explained one of the many horrific experiences he had while serving in Afghanistan. Serna was on patrol with his unit when the road gave way turning the vehicle over into the creek. Water filled the cab. For Serna, the water made it all the way to his chin but his friends and fellow soldiers were not so lucky. He was the only one to survive.

It’s understandable that he suffered from claustrophobia. Serna explained how being in that cell sent him into a PTSD flashback. The veteran explained that it felt like the walls were closing in on him.

Serna said that once Judge Olivera came, “the walls were no longer there” as the two men talked about their families and their lives.

“He took me back to North Carolina,” Serna said. “He took me from a truck in Afghanistan back to North Carolina.”
After the night was over, Serna promised Judge Olivera that this would be the last incident that brought him back to court.

“He is a judge, but that night, he was my battle buddy,” Serna told People magazine. “He knew what I was going through. As a warrior, he connected.”

Serna had gone into battles repeatedly, and with each deployment brought equal amounts of pain and glory.
“I lost so many friends,” Serna recalled. “I was medevaced [medically evacuated] after some guy dropped a grenade on me. In the process, I lost a bunch of guys right next to me.”


It’s easy for veterans to just be overlooked by society. Especially in today’s world. I am thankful Judge Olivera took a special interest in this man’s struggles and I hope their story serves as a reminder that there is still a great deal of good in this world.



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