3 Recognized for Completing Big Island Veterans Treatment Court Program

June 30, 2020, 7:29 AM HST (Updated June 30, 2020, 7:33 AM)
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  • Big Island Veterans Treatment Court recognizes three participants. (PC: Tiffany DeMasters)
  • Big Island Veterans Treatment Court recognizes three participants. (PC: Tiffany DeMasters)
  • Big Island Veterans Treatment Court recognizes three participants. (PC: Tiffany DeMasters)
  • Drug Court graduation Monday morning recognized Kuoio Kukua, Nicholas Hall, David Lopes, Sloan Deleon, Robert Wimsatt, and Iwa Kalua. (PC: Wendy Terada)
  • Drug Court graduation Monday morning recognized Sloan Deleon, Kuoio Kukua, David Lopes, Nicholas Hall, Robert Wimsatt, and Iwa Kalua. (PC:Wendy Terada)
  • SWIPE LEFT OR RIGHT
    • Big Island Veterans Treatment Court recognizes three participants. (PC: Tiffany DeMasters)
    • Big Island Veterans Treatment Court recognizes three participants. (PC: Tiffany DeMasters)
    • Big Island Veterans Treatment Court recognizes three participants. (PC: Tiffany DeMasters)
    • Drug Court graduation Monday morning recognized Kuoio Kukua, Nicholas Hall, David Lopes, Sloan Deleon, Robert Wimsatt, and Iwa Kalua. (PC: Wendy Terada)
    • Drug Court graduation Monday morning recognized Sloan Deleon, Kuoio Kukua, David Lopes, Nicholas Hall, Robert Wimsatt, and Iwa Kalua. (PC:Wendy Terada)

The Big Island Veterans Treatment Court team celebrated the graduation of three of its participants, Monday afternoon.

In Courtroom 3A at the Keahuolu Courthouse in Kona, Juss Ferry, Kala Kalahikiola and Darius Robertson were recognized for the work they completed to become sober and drug free.

“In these unprecedented times, we will not let COVID-19 keep us from having a graduation ceremony,” said Drug Court Judge Melvin Fujino.

With face masks donned and six feet of social distance between the graduates and those in attendance, a Zoom call allowed county and state leaders to participate in the celebration virtually.

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Christian Lamb, Veterans Justice Outreach with Veterans Affairs, thanked Ferry, Kalahikiola and Robertson in the courtroom for their dedication to become better men.

“I’ve witnessed each of you grow as better men and fathers,” Lamb said. “We believe not in your past accomplishments or in any future ones, but in the fact that you now have an understanding of your own inner strength and your worth.”

Members of the Veterans Court team acknowledged that the men’s graduation was no small accomplishment.

“Whenever you are struggling to believe in yourself and how far you can go, please remember today and how far you have come and how many people believe in you,” Lamb said.

Vets Treatment Court gave the veterans a second chance. Ferry said it brought him back to his family. Kalahikiloa said the program helped change his attitude. All three men were grateful for the team and Fujino’s assistance in the program.

“My experience with Veterans Court was the answer I was looking for,” Robertson said. “Today, I’m the person I was before my addiction.”

Robertson, a veteran of the US Army, was on probation for possession of crystal methamphetamine prior to entering Vets Court.

“My choices landed me back in jail, I lost my job and my two kids were put into foster care,” Robertson said.

“My experience was nothing short of a miracle,” Robertson said of the program. He now has one year, two months and seven days of sobriety.

Robertson got his job back but his greatest accomplishment, he says, was getting his children out of CPS.

Iwa Kalua, Robertson’s friend spoke at the ceremony. Kalua graduated earlier Monday from Drug Court and was at the afternoon event to support his friend.

“We’ve been walking the same path together,” Kalua said. “Without him by my side in treatment, I never would’ve made it.”

Kalua was facing prison time when he was given the option to enter Drug Court.

“It allowed me to be honest with myself and another human being,” Kalua said of the program. “I took all that was taught to me and ran with it.”

Kalua feels his graduation isn’t the end, but a beginning.

“I feel like I’m reborn again,” he explained. “I feel like a child learning to walk again in my own shoes. I’m super grateful.”

Kalua graduated with Kuoio Kukua, Nicholas Hall, David Lopes, Sloan Deleon and Robert Wimsatt.

Outside the courtroom, Fujino said, the veterans didn’t just go through the steps in the program but worked them.

“They were very exceptional participants because they wanted to change,” the judge said. “They did what they had to do and were sincere in their belief.”

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat. Tiffany is an award-winning journalist, receiving recognition from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. Tiffany grew up on the Big Island and is passionate about telling the community’s stories.
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