GEORGETOWN (KXAN) - Josh Hinton gave up his law practice in 2007 to join the Army and spent a year deployed to Afghanistan.
"What happens to us is unique," he said. "I don't believe that anybody who goes is not changed in some way, shape or form."
Upon his return to his law practice, he was thrilled to learn Travis County had created a Veterans Court, a program approved by the Texas Legislature in 2009, that allows service members with combat related issues, who get into trouble, to get help rather than jail time. But he was disappointed when he discovered Williamson County did not have a Veterans Court.
"There's way too many body bags I carried, way too many last flights I put people on- for us not to recognize it," he said. "The guys need to know that we care and if we're not willing to give them a Veterans Court- what are we telling them?"
Hinton said he was also surprised to learn Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley did not support creating a Veterans Court when the issue first arose in November 2010.
"I strongly support veterans and respect their service," Bradley wrote in an email to KXAN.
He said that Williamson County already identifies veterans in the court system who need counseling rather than jail time through a variety of programs with the Williamson County Mental Health Task Force and other MHMR services.
"Here in Williamson County, there are frankly very few such cases and they can already be handled through our current judicial system," Bradley said.
Andrea Richardson works closely on veterans issues in the courts and said Williamson County veterans are afforded many of the same services- like counseling- and a jail diversion program that they would receive in a Veterans Court.
"If there may be issues where we can divert the person out of the jail- and into treatment- a more appropriate setting- that's what our goal is," said Richardson, who is the Executive Director for Bluebonnet Trails Community Services.
This week, Hinton created a group called Veterans for Jana Duty in support of Bradley's opponent for District Attorney, Jana Duty, who does support creating a Veterans Court.
"In my opinion- the Veterans Court is necessary- the MHMR- yes, there's help- but they're not focused on the issues that a veteran has gone through," said Hinton.
Richardson said they work closely to help veterans with peer-to-peer counseling and she noted the recent opening of the Green Zone Resource Center for veterans, a private veteran's resource center in Cedar Park.
"We already have a system in Williamson County for identifying people who have mental problems and they handle them- they handle them in all the courts," said retired U.S. Army General Charles (Chuck) Graham, who supports Bradley's opposition to a Veterans Court. "When you look at the figures- I believe John is absolutely right- there is no reason for Williamson County to form a veterans court- maybe they need one in Travis County I don't know- maybe they need one in Houston, but we don't need one here- we are able to handle our veterans."
Travis County has had a Veterans Court for more than a year.
"They stood up and they fought for us and what people think at home and how we support them is so important," said Hinton.
Hinton said the goal of the group is to get a Veterans Court created in Williamson County and he supports the candidate who supports creating the court.
Family and friends held a vigil Wednesday at the State Capitol in hopes that a Bastrop man can win a new trial.
An unusually cold blast of arctic air arriving early Thursday will be followed by an increasing chance of freezing drizzle/rain and sleet by Friday morning.
The HealthCare.gov website is working more smoothly for central Texans.
City leaders in West Lake Hills discussed the ongoing concern with the city's water system Wednesday night. The problems arise when water is needed most; fighting fires.
Federal, state and local authorities on Wednesday arrested 15 people and seized 70 firearms in raid on a methamphetamine operation based in Burnet County.
Former Georgetown Police Officer Stephanie Brown said her ex-boyfriend, former Round Rock Officer Eric Poteet, made up accusations against her after she broke up with him.