For this Veterans Day, we wanted to honor our brave servicemen and women by shining a light on Justice Involved Veterans. Veterans make up about 8% – or an estimated 181,500 people – of the incarcerated population of the US. We wanted to highlight one of Arouet’s participants who spent five years in the US Army.

Jessi G.’s life dream was to follow her family tradition of service. Having grown up as an ‘Army Brat’ herself, she wanted that lifestyle for her own family one day, and so she followed in her father’s footsteps and enlisted in the US Army.

She loved the culture and camaraderie of growing up in a military family. It wasn’t just the tight knit communities at the bases she lived at, but it also forged close family ties with her parents and sister.

While enlisted Jessi married another active-duty soldier and soon she found herself pregnant with her son. The fear of having both of her son’s parents deployed at the same time led her to step away from active duty. After a few years, she enlisted into the reserve. She only stayed with the army reserve for a year.

By this time, Jessi had suffered some injuries during the course of her service. While on active duty, she had two knee surgeries. To treat lingering pain related to her injuries after she left the Army, she was prescribed pain killers by her civilian doctor.

She didn’t know it then but, this was the beginning of Jessi’s involvement with the criminal justice system.

Once doctors began to cut back o

 

n prescribing these pain killers, Jessi was hooked. It wasn’t long before she was turning toward committing theft and trafficking items to pay for her habit. Eventually, she went from the pain killers to heroin because of the rising costs of getting the pills as supplies became more controlled.

Before long, this lifestyle caught up with her and she ended up serving a three-year and three months long prison sentence. In prison Jessi felt an immense sense of guilt and shame because of the impact this had on her family, especially her son, but also because she felt it damaged her soldier’s sense of honor.

She refused to stay down and allow these feelings to rule her.

During her sentence, Jessi focused on finding self-forgiveness. She had been forgiven by her family and she had their support and the peace of mind that her son was safe and taken care of. She had to do the internal work to make her recovery and self-acceptance happen.

Through resilience, faith, and a retention job that gave her something to focus on, Jessi found that self-forgiveness.

Upon finishing her sentence in state prison, she was then transferred to federal custody to serve out the finals months of the sentence before being released home to her family.

Life, and reentry, were still a battle, even with the support of her family. At one point in her reentry Jessi relapsed. Instead of letting this momentary setback completely derail her recovery, she found treatment and support in a familiar place: The VA Office.

Jessi entered treatment at the VA Office of Tucson after her relapse, where she could find support and camaraderie in her fellow veterans as they find their way through their recovery.

Today, she is happy and healthy and still attending regular recovery maintenance classes at the VA and working towards reconnecting with friends prior to her interaction with the justice system. Jessi is looking forward to sharing more of her story both because of the healing it brings to herself but also because she knows how important it is to know that you are not alone in the struggle.

This Veteran’s Day, Jessi plans to spend it with her dad and video chat with her other family members who live in Oklahoma. She also will be reaching out to a few of her army buddies by phone to

We encourage everyone to think about and send some extra love and care to all the justice involved veterans like Jessi, on this day and every other.