Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Veterans Court helps Navy veteran involved in Fight

Indianapolis, IN (December 11, 2018) — All of us have had those moments when we are not at our best, when we do something we regret. For Rebecca Mills, that moment went viral.

Most people won't recognize her by name, but they probably remember the YouTube video — the one where two women traded punches at a Beech Grove Walmart.

Mills, 42, is the woman in the pink shoes who got out of a scooter and wrestled with another woman in the shampoo aisle. The other woman can be heard telling a little boy to punch Mills in the face. The boy punched Mills.

Rebecca Mills delivering the keynote speech at Indianapolis Veterans Court Photo: Vic Ryckaert

That’s a kind of low few people hit. And it's been viewed by millions of people since June 2015.
But this story isn't about Mills' greatest embarrassments and biggest failures.

This is a story about a woman who crawled from the depths of addiction and isolation with the help of allies in a special corner of the justice system.

A slow descent
Years before she bottomed out in the shampoo aisle, Mills served nine honorable years in the Navy, from 1994-2003. She was an operations specialist, with the rank of second class petty officer. Mills served her country on three ships, including a tour in the Mediterranean.

 She left the Navy and stayed home to raise her three sons. After her husband retired from the Navy in 2006, they moved to Indianapolis. But things here didn't work out as Mills hoped.

It was a slow descent that landed her in the legal system. Her marriage was starting to fall apart. She and her husband would divorce in 2014. "I was at complete rock bottom with no foreseen hope," Mills said.

She battled depression and migraine headaches for years. She was in constant pain, and doctors couldn't tell her why. She underwent years of testing before in 2012 she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a nervous system disorder that causes severe body pain and fatigue. That's why she was in a scooter in that infamous video.

She relied on pills for migraines, depression, and to help her sleep. Mills said they helped her avoid facing her many failures. "I became dependent on my medicine," Mills said. "I was no longer being held accountable for my life."

After Walmart
Mills recognizes now that she was struggling with addiction. Poor choices, she said, led to that Walmart aisle.

The fight earned Mills a night in jail and a misdemeanor conviction for disorderly conduct. A first-time offender, Mills was sentenced to 40 hours community service and handed a $183 fine. In the three-and-a-half years since the Walmart video went viral, it's been posted and reposted many times with added commentary and music.

There's the video posted last year in which Indianapolis sports radio host Dan Dakich calls boxing match-style play by play, making fun of Mills' looks and weight. The audio comes from a segment Dakich aired on his radio show to mark the two-year anniversary of the fight.

Rebecca Mills at Indianapolis Veterans Court. Photo: Vic Ryckaert

Once a proud veteran, Mills became a punchline.

"I started asking myself, 'How can one be humble if they've never really truly been humiliated,'" Mills said. After the Walmart fight, Mills said she became a recluse, withdrawing from friends and loved ones. She said she was abusing her prescription pills and smoking marijuana heavily.

Then, just 10 months later, things got worse.

She still can't explain exactly what was going on in her head that night. She was sleep-deprived, numbed by pills and pot. She was under intense stress, she said, after the death of her dog, a break-up with her then-fiance and a suicide attempt by her son. "They could write a country song about this," Mills told IndyStar during a February 2017 interview.

Late in the evening on April 17, 2016, Mills entered the south-side home of a stranger who lived not far from her. Dogs barked loudly as she tore through the home and woke the owner. She poked her head into the bedroom and said "sorry," the man told police.

She took random items from the home, sunglasses, suntan lotion and a gun holster, according to a probable cause affidavit. Then she stood on the porch and screamed: "People are going to burn!"

Police arrested Mills about an hour later. She asked officers to contact country singer Tim McGraw. He was her boyfriend, she told the officers, and she wanted them to tell him she was going to jail.

This time Mills was facing a felony.

She needed help, but she didn't realize it.

"I look at getting arrested as a blessing in disguise," Mills said. "I was a sick person who needed and wanted to get well."

Redemption for veterans
Mills' felony case, the one where she broke into her neighbor's home and ranted about Tim McGraw, was assigned to the Indianapolis Veterans Court, a treatment program for military veterans facing misdemeanors and low-level felonies.

The court helps "veterans in crisis recover their sense of mission and accomplishment," said Judge David Certo, who has presided over the court since it launched in October 2015.

Modeled after the success of drugs courts, Veterans Court helps veterans and current service members grapple with the substance abuse and mental health problems that keep so many recycling through the legal system.

About 400,000 veterans live in Indiana, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many struggle with mental health issues. The suicide rate for veterans in Indiana is nearly twice the rate for Hoosiers as a whole, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Each week, about 25 veterans are arrested in Marion County. This year, 62 have been assigned to Veterans Court. Fifteen graduated in 2018; 16 more have graduated since the court started hearing cases.

Anyone who has served in the military and has addiction or mental health problems that could benefit from treatment may be offered the opportunity to have their cases heard in Veterans Court.

It's a voluntary program, Certo said. The supervision and requirements are often more intense than a sentence in the regular court system.

Mills entered the program in 2016. She stood before the judge facing charges of felony residential entry and misdemeanor theft.

Certo, on the bench, looked over her record of nine honorable years of Naval service and reminded Mills that she was successful once. She could be again.

The court set her up with a mentor and required her to attend counseling sessions.

With the help of counseling and support from other veterans, Mills said she stopped abusing drugs and started going to church. Mills said she started focusing on herself and began doing what it took to straighten out. She dumped the people who supported her bad habits, replacing them with friends who wanted her to succeed. For Mills, the road back wasn't anything special. Wake up. Go to work. Get there on time. Be someone others can count on. Do it every day.

'They believed in me'
Mills graduated the Veterans Court in 2017. The charges against her were dismissed — the big reward for all who complete the program.

She has a job she enjoys as a field technician testing construction materials for Patriot Engineering and Environmental. She's rebuilt relationships with her three sons, one of whom now lives with her.

She has put the Walmart fight in her past. It happened, but it doesn't define her.

"I never thought I'd get to this point where I could talk about that and not get mad, or cry, or feel guilt or shame," Mills said. "I hope that story encourages other people to get the help they need."

On Nov. 30, the court welcomed her back to its most recent graduation ceremony. This time, as the keynote speaker. "Veterans Court was my second chance," she told an audience of more than 100 in the auditorium at the Indiana War Memorial. "It provided me with a safe, nurturing treatment program. It met me where I was and accepted me with all my flaws.

"They believed in me when I didn't believe in myself." Tears ran down her cheeks as Mills finished her speech.

The audience clapped and cheered, rewarding Mills with a long, enthusiastic standing ovation.

SOURCE: Indy Star
STORY:  Vic Ryckaert

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Veterans Job Fair

Indianapolis, IN (December 4, 2018) — Around 75 companies will be at Lucas Oil Stadium on Thursday, December 13 for a job fair for veterans. The job fair runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The 75 companies that will be at the job fair are from several different industries.

Recruiters from Spectrum, Eli Lilly and Company, Farmers Insurance, Allstate and many others will be at the job fair. DAV or Disabled American Veterans and RecruitMilitary are the organizations running the job fair. They estimate the companies will have about 250 to 300 jobs to offer. The job fair is open to veterans, those transitioning out of the military, national guard and reserve members and spouses.

Organizers expect about half of the people who attend to get some kind of offer or job interview. And if anything, they say it's a good opportunity for veterans to recruiters who understand how valuable veterans are.

 "These events are the last true place to network. We say how much networking is so important, but they really don't tell you where or how to do that. I think this is one of the last real time places that you can come and network and have a really organic conversation with a recruiter that's likely a veteran as well and if not - really understands the veteran talent space, so it's good to see even if you're gainfully employed now, it's good to see where you could go," said Chris Cravens with RecruitMilitary.

The job fair is free. Parking in the South Lot at Lucas Oil Stadium is also free. More information, at: RecruitMilitary.com

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Indy Honor Flight fundraiser huge success

Indianapolis, IN (November 20, 2018) — Five-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon couldn’t find a parking space at Chip Ganassi Racing’s Indianapolis headquarters on Saturday afternoon. That’s because, for more than three hours, the facility was flooded with people who wanted to support a worthy cause while hearing from him and hopefully landing an autograph.

These people arrived early for an open house to benefit Indy Honor Flight, which transports military veterans free of charge to Washington, D.C., to see the war memorials. “Just trying to get into this today, the parking lots are full and I had to park down the street,” Dixon said after meeting with several veterans. “That’s a good sign, right?” One might think Dixon, who celebrated his fifth title with Ganassi this past season, would have his own parking spot by now. “I don’t even think Chip has a spot here,” he said with a smile. Dixon was honored to be part of this third Ganassi open house for Indy Honor Flight, which since its inaugural trip in 2012 has flown more than 2,200 veterans to the nation’s capital on 28 trips.

He conceded these veterans of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War were the guests of honor this day. One of the veterans Dixon met was Zeke Secor, 87, of Avon, Indiana. Secor was stationed at a U.S. Air Force base in Okinawa, Japan, during the Korean War. He’s made the trip to Washington twice, including last month. “It was awesome,” Secor said. “I can’t think of any other word. All of the monuments were great. I cried at all of them. I knew people from World War II. I was in Korea. And I had two brothers in Vietnam. All three monuments meant a lot to me.” Seated next to Secor at an autograph table was Harold Hodge, 90, of Brownsburg, Indiana.

The Korean War veteran made his first trip to D.C. in April. “I had never seen it before,” he said. “I think every veteran should see it. I think about the guys that didn’t come back. That’s the sorry part, and their families. You think about what the families lost. I just thank God that I got back.” Indy Honor Flight relies on these fundraisers to fully cover the cost of trips.

All staffers are volunteers. The Indianapolis hub is one of four in the state, the others in Fort Wayne, Lafayette and Evansville. More than 140 hubs nationwide have flown more than 200,000 veterans to see the memorials, according to Indy Honor Flight chairman Dale True. “The majority of our veterans don’t have a homecoming,” True said. “Most of them just come home, they give their mom a kiss, they shake their dad’s hand, they hang their uniforms up and they go back to work.

 “What this flight does for our wartime World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans, it gives them an opportunity for some closure. It also gives them an opportunity for honor and respect and thanks. It also gives them an opportunity for a homecoming, which many of them never had.”

 After enjoying that special day, veterans are given a homecoming reception from family and friends. “None of us would have the life that we have today,” True said, “if it weren’t for these men and women and the service they gave our country so many years ago.” True marveled at the immaculate Ganassi facility and joked that meals could be eaten off the floors. The front lobby had tables loaded with racing trophies. Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Honda race car was there. So, too, was a Ford GT model car made of 45,000 Legos that weighed 89 pounds.

 “I feel privileged to be a small part of it and hopefully we can raise some good money and get some more planes to D.C. to see the memorials,” Dixon said, “but it’s more about the atmosphere and this generation and these vets being able to talk about common things that they don’t often get to talk about. “Some of them just wanted to talk about racing and the experiences they’ve had at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Some have been going since the ‘30s and ‘40s.

It’s something that gives them excitement. It’s something they look forward to. They can’t wait for the next time they’re maybe able to take the trip to D.C. It’s cool to see their eyes light up.” Anyone who served during war time in the three wars can apply online at indyhonorflight.org to be added to the waiting list.

Two more trips are scheduled for April and May. Two others who have made the flight were 98 years old, Vera Nuckols of Indianapolis and Pearl Donnelly of Avon. “It’s very special,” said Nuckols, who served in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II as a mess hall sergeant in Arkansas and Georgia. “I was on the fourth flight years ago. I’ve been all for this ever since.” Donnelly, a WAC cook in Arkansas during World War II, was overcome with emotion when asked what her flight meant. “Everything,” she said, her voice cracking and tears forming. “The monuments are very special.”

 The best part about being involved with these trips, True said, is seeing the veterans re-energized. “What we find is once they get out and have the experience of the trip, they realize there are people still out here who care about them, who respect their service and it kind of brings them back to life,” True said. “We see a whole new person coming back. They get to mingle with other war veterans and realize they’re not the only ones who are like that. It’s very heartwarming for us to see that reaction. “Everybody says it’s just a day trip, but I assure you, it’s much more than a trip.”

SOURCE: IndyCar.com

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Evansville soldier killed in training accident

Tacoma, WA (November 7, 2018) — Spc. Drew Watters, 23, was killed in the accident on Sunday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord which is located south of Tacoma, Washington. No further details are being released at this time, but the cause of his death is currently under investigation.

Spc. Drew Watters

Watters enlisted as an infantryman in 2015, and served in the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, since September 2017. During his service, he was awarded the Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Ribbon, and the Army Service Ribbon.

"The 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of Spc. Drew Watters," said Col. Jay Miseli, commander of 2-2 SBCT. "We ask that you keep his family, friends, and Lancer Brigade Soldiers affected by his loss in your thoughts and prayers. Spc. Watters was a leader, husband, and father who will be sorely missed by all."

SOURCE: Tri State Homepage