Rutherford County, TN—Judge Ben Hall McFarlin presided over his final Veterans Court Graduation Wednesday (08/11/21) afternoon at Rutherford County Recovery Court.
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The Commissioner of Veterans Services with the State of Tennessee Tommy Baker presented McFarlin with a commemorative flag, a challenge coin, and certificate of appreciation as other state and county dignitaries looked on.
Other dignitaries in attendance were State Representative Mike Sparks, Judges Jimmy Turner and Lisa Eischeid, County Commissioners Rod Key, Rhonda Allen, Paul Johnson, Pettus Read, and Chantho Sourinho, Mayor Bill Ketron and Deputy to the Mayor Steve Sandlin, and Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh.
While McFarlin will not officially retire until October 1, 2021, this was his last graduation. To honor the occasion, the treatment team presented him with a plaque of appreciation and a streamer of his very own.
Streamers are often inscribed with the veteran’s name and the date it’s presented and attached to the headpiece of the assigned flag denoting the veteran’s participation in a particular battle, military campaign, or theater of war.
“God has truly blessed me to allow me to help our Veterans who have sacrificed and made it possible for us all to live in the greatest country on earth,” said McFarlin. “Their accomplishments in our Veterans Treatment Program are nothing short of amazing. The heart and soul of this program is the treatment team and I give them all the credit. They are the best team in the state. I thank the Mayor, our County Commission, and the citizens of Rutherford County for their support of all of the Recovery Courts.”
The ceremony, the first full of its kind since the pandemic began in 2020, honored four graduates; one having just completed the program and three other previous graduates who did not get to take part in a ceremony. Graduates placed their streamers on flags representing their respective branch of military for which they served.
“Judge McFarlin put it best when he said ‘while the person may have graduated, they are never forgotten, and will always be a part of the court’,” said Recovery Director Trish Breeding.
“Graduation days are my favorite days at this job,” she continued. “It is such a moving experience to hear participants give their testimony of recovery, having witnessed the progress they have made. Today was especially meaningful as it was Judge McFarlin’s last ceremony. We are so appreciative of the foundation that he has laid for this program and his service to Rutherford County veterans and their loved ones.”
“It was heartwarming to see our Veterans benefit from both justice and redemption merging in the same place,” commented Commissioner Baker.
Representative Sparks spoke about the graduates and also McFarlin’s dedication to the program, "Congratulations to those veterans who graduated. Rarely have I witnessed an event where one can go from laughter to tears in seconds. Judge Ben Hall McFarlin is tough--yet compassionate. I have personally witnessed him offering hugs and encouragement to help transform lives and it's priceless. I wish him and his wife well in his retirement."
County Mayor Bill Ketron stated, “It was a bittersweet day. While it was such an incredible experience to hear the testimony of the graduates and celebrate them for completing the program, it was also somewhat of an emotional time knowing this was Judge McFarlin’s last ceremony. We truly appreciate the work that he has done to move Rutherford County forward in a progressive direction as it pertains to recovery and helping clients improve their quality of life and residually enhance the overall quality of our community. We wish him well in his retirement.”
Veterans Treatment Court is a judicially supervised program that allows individuals who have served in the United States Armed Forces the option of treatment in lieu of jail. While in the program, participants engage in individual counseling, group counseling, peer support meetings, and case management. Anyone interested in applying can do so online (county website) or in person at their office located at 525 N University. For more information or eligibility requirements, please visit: http://rutherfordcountytn.gov/recovery-court/veterans-court.html.