Veteran shares how Redford rehab program helped him overcome PTSD

David Route now working as HVAC technician

REDFORD, Mich. – A district court in Redford is working to rehabilitate veterans and end the cycle of them risking their lives to defend freedom, coming home with overlooked struggles and landing in the criminal justice system.

A courtroom inside the 17th District Court in Redford transformed into a unique graduation ceremony for honorees such as David Route.

"David is a veteran of the Army, where he served in the military police for 14 years," Judge Karen Khalil said.

Route and the rest of the men in the front row of the courtroom fought for the country overseas then faced personal battles back home, landing them in veteran's court.

"You're all very capable men and I knew each one of you had it in you," Khalil said.

Route struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"You get here and everything's just, you see, you know, dirt, trash on the side of the road, and you start getting nervous because in the mindset that we're in, it could be an IED (improvised explosive device)," Route said.

He couldn't find a job and felt isolated.

"You just have so many mixed emotions of everything you've been through and things you've seen that you just don't really know how to cope with it," Route said. "You just don't really want to feel anything anymore, so you just kind of turn to whatever you can to try and numb it to make it go away."

Route said he started self-medicating with alcohol.

"Then when I got my first DUI, it was kind of a slap on the wrist, if you would," Route said.

Then, he got another DUI.

"It was, like, 'OK, we're not playing around anymore. Your license is gone. You can't drive anymore,'" Route said. "And I spent a few days in jail."

Route decided to go through the rigorous veteran's court program to get his life back on track.

Khalil started the program in 2011 to help veterans reacclimate to society.

"I've been a district court judge for 27 years now, and when I started doing this treatment court, I just felt like it gave me new life," Khalil said. "It gave me a new purpose, and I feel like it's my opportunity to really give back to the community and to our country."

The program helps get veterans connected to the Department of Veterans Affairs, gives them resources and offers one-on-one mentoring.

"It's not an easy program," Khalil said. "It is not a free ride. It is much more strict and stringent than any other probation sentence that they could've served on a misdemeanor case."

"I'm an HVAC tech now and it's like I'm finally kind of finding something fulfilling, at least to where it's like I know I'm kind of helping people in an aspect," Route said. "It's like I've got a little sense of purpose and my pride back."

Now Route and his fellow comrades are ready to start a new chapter of their lives and leave the court system behind.

"We couldn't be more proud of you than we are today, so congratulations," Khalil said.

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