LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — He was cited for obstructing an officer after a traffic stop in North Las Vegas — a run-in that escalated over a minor problem with lights on his vehicle.

But Dexter Dorsett Jr. was in trouble. The retired Air Force veteran was having a hard time adjusting to civilian life. Marijuana and alcohol weren’t helping. On top of that, he retired in March of 2020 just as quarantines began and the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up. He was isolated.

When Dorsett appeared in court, North Las Vegas Judge Chris Lee gave him a choice that ended up making a big difference in his life.

The yearlong Veterans Treatment Court program did more than keep his record clean; it ended a long-term problem with substance abuse that affects a lot of people in the military. The rough transition to civilian life is more than just a bump in the road — it’s a new reality, and not an easy one for many who have spent years in the military “system.”

“It’s not an easy transition,” Dorsett said.

“One day, the military … you’re going to get out and it’s going to keep going. And then you’ve got to figure out who you are after that,” he said. “And it’s hard for a lot of personalities. That’s where a lot of retired veterans commit suicide. They just have a really rough time. The military is all they knew.”

And Dorsett has high praise for the program, recommending it to other vets if they get in a position where they are offered the choice.

“I was able to tackle something that’s been a burden on my life, for most of my adult life,” Dorsett said in an interview the day before Veterans Day. “Now, if I didn’t choose this I could have had a record, I may have done some jail time. Who knows what happens after litigation is finished and has totally runs its process.”

He describes a program that’s not no cakewalk.

“The program demands that you stay clean, you can’t drink, you can’t use any type of drugs, you can’t get into anymore trouble, you have to have a job, you have to check in once a month. Basically, you have a court date once a month. You have to show up. If you miss that court date, those charges are then brought back on you. You’re removed from the program and you have to go through the system, per se.”

Dorsett describes the judge in charge of the program as firm, but fair. And he knows Lee’s military background — “General Lee,” Dorsett calls him. Lee served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve JAG Corps assigned to Nellis Air Force Base.

“Our program differs from many other courts in that each participant is assessed and has a unique case plan designed to their very specific needs,” according to Lee.

“We have been able to develop a wonderful partnership with the VA and many other local veterans organizations to rally behind our veterans and put them on a path toward stability and success,” Lee said.

He adds that the team was recently awarded one of seven grants through Justice for Vets and the Bureau of Justice Assistance to support the expansion of our Veterans Treatment Court program. “We are thrilled with the trajectory of our program,” he said.

Dorsett is thankful the program was there when he needed it.

“The program was right on time,” he said. “I had no idea that that was going to be a part of my life. It helped me get back on track and restore me to be … I guess, a productive member of the community.”