Johnson County’s Veterans Treatment Court held its first in-person graduation since late 2019 and its first in the new Johnson County Courthouse. Many said it was a welcome departure from online events that were the norm in 2020 and early 2021.
Derek Lightfoot asked for his graduation from the program to be delayed until he could have it in person. “It was a big achievement, a big overcoming of a hurdle in my life,” he said, reflecting on his experience. Two other graduates, Jordan Suter and Andrew Leehy, joined Lightfoot in receiving their recognitions in person. Three other veterans achieved graduation but were not present at the ceremony.
Judge Timothy McCarthy of the Kansas 10th Judicial Circuit presided over the ceremony. He was joined on the bench by the court’s Chief Judge Kelly Ryan and retired Kansas Supreme Court Judge Lawton Nuss.
The keynote speaker was Megan Duncan, a Gold Star mother whose son Spencer died in combat in Afghanistan in 2011. She now leads the Spencer C. Duncan Make it Count Foundation. She told the veterans still making their way through the program, “Your present circumstances don’t have to be your permanent circumstances.” She complimented the graduates for doing the hard things and predicted, “I’m pretty sure you’re going to reach your hand back and help somebody else.”
The Johnson County Veterans Treatment Court began in 2016. 44 veterans have completed the program and graduated since that time.