GREAT FALLS — Since 2013, the Cascade County Veterans' Treatment Court has been changing lives. The Veterans' Treatment Court is a voluntary program for veterans involved in the criminal justice system.
Veterans are linked with resources such as housing, education, employment and more. The program serves as an alternative to incarceration.
Judge Elizabeth Best, who has been administering the program for two and a half years, has nothing but respect for Army veteran Measha Nyemaster, the latest graduate.
A decorated veteran who wanted to be a medic, Measha served as an aircraft re-fueler during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She grew up in Idaho, around addiction, and that behavior followed her even after her leaving the Army.
“I was drinking and then I went to a function and when I left that function, I had been drinking and I had my child in the car,” said Nyemaster.
Measha was charged with criminal endangerment. Her time in Veterans’ Treatment Court offered a second chance.
“I've never felt like I was being chastised,” said Nyemaster. “I always felt like I was heard and respected. And that was like the biggest thing is that Judge Best never made us feel like we were in trouble.”
47-year-old Robert Anderson of Belt served in the Air Force from 1994-2003. His chance at redemption through Veterans’ Treatment Court came after getting a DUI.
“It's a willingness to change,” said Anderson. “And from the get-go, I bought into it. I was ready to go. I was willing to change my change my life. And that's what's needed.”
Jayson Sterling served nearly 20 years in the Air Force before being medically separated in 2018. The adjustment to civilian life was tough.
“I had a lot of responsibility in the Air Force,” said Sterling. “I had 60 troops and I had nuclear missiles I guarded. That was the leadership. I got out of the Air Force, but I didn't have any responsibility anymore. I began to drink heavily.”
A 2020 domestic dispute led him to the legal system and eventually to Veterans’ Treatment Court. Although he graduated in January, he can often be seen in the gallery showing support for other veterans.
“If you watch the people when they first come in versus months later, you can see a huge difference in most everybody,” said Sterling.
Army veteran Henry Daychild, Junior grew up on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation and served in Iraq. His entry to Veterans’ Treatment Court was a result of domestic violence. His initial apprehension was quickly replaced by feeling welcomed.
“At first I was really I had a lot of anxiety with it because of my previous history with court,” said Daychild. “But then you get used to going to court and it turned out to be a good thing, I guess, and being able to speak for yourself and talk for yourself.”
Organizers estimate the Cascade County Veterans’ Treatment Court success rate at over 90-percent. Graduates we talked to fall into that majority having secured jobs, starting businesses and continuing their education.
Henry now travels the state working for Gilham Insulation.
“It feels really good to be out there and be a productive part of a crew that makes a difference and building homes,” said Daychild.
Henry also struggled with the additional burden of losing a daughter while going through Veterans’ Treatment Court. He has custody of his sons, and recently his daughter who lives in Great Falls gave birth, making him a grandfather. For the first time, he’s planning to travel with a trip to San Francisco in the work. Before that, he plans to visit another daughter in Portland.
Robert Anderson has opened Gray Duck Building Services.
“Basically, we do all aspects of remodeling inside and out,” said Anderson. “I think my favorite thing to say now is don't be afraid to succeed.”
Jayson Sterling is going back to school online through Southern New Hampshire University.
“Right now I'm getting my bachelor's in computer science,” said Sterling.
Measha Nyemaster, who beams about her time in the Army, served in the Third Armored Cavalry at Fort Hood, Texas. Members of the unit can earn spurs and a Stetson hat but have to pay with their own money.
As a gift from the court, Judge Best presented Measha with a pair of spurs on graduation day, along with a certificate, her dog tags and a special coin.
Measha is also going to school through a program called Veterans Upward Bound. She’s not sure what the future holds, but is excited at the opportunity.
“I want to do something that makes me happy,” said Nyemaster. “Being sober isn't just it. There's has to have something more.”
Questions or comments about this article? Click here to contact Tim.
- Video: men taunt moose in Big Sky
- Train derails in western Montana
- Canada goose returns 'home' to Power
- Recent obituaries on KRTV
FOLLOW KRTV: Instagram | TikTok | Twitter