Court Program Gives Veterans A Second Chance

By Joel Thomas, CBS 11 News

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – When Richard Ruffert retired from the U.S. Army as a 22 year combat veteran he had money, a house, a family, and a terrible secret.

“I got addicted to pain pills while I was on active duty,” Ruffert said. “I got addicted Xanax to calm the anxiety because of PTSD.”

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even the simplest moments in civilian life were marred by Ruffert’s time in combat. Once, Ruffert was driving when a tornado siren sounded, mentally transporting him back into combat.

“I’m going down the interstate and the siren goes off and I’m reaching for my gas mask. Thinking that we were having a gas alert. And that’s what we call trigger points and that causes our PTSD to get worse,” the combat veteran said. “I did a lot of things I shouldn’t have done. I pushed my family away. I pushed my kids away, the people that loved me I was too embarrassed to tell them I had problems.”

Ruffert lost his family, his home and his will to live. One day, he recalls driving to a mall parking lot and covering his car’s windows with trash bags. He then said he took 90 morphine pills in an attempt to overdose.

“I had taken so much morphine it had dried out, they couldn’t stick a tube down my throat even with lubrication. I was passed out but I do remember the doctor hitting me on the chest saying, ‘Richard, if you want to live you have to swallow,'” Ruffert said.

Ruffert recovered, only to end up in jail. A single question from his defense lawyer saved his life.

“He asked me if I had a mental disorder,” Ruffert remembered. “I told him I did he asked me what it was and I was shocked. Right there and then that changed my life”

Ruffert was among the first group of Texas veterans admitted to a program to have minor criminal charges against them dropped if they complete treatment for their PTSD. Graduating from the Veteran’s Diversion Program requires counseling, drug testing and constant monitoring by the court.

“A year ago I didn’t have a nickel to my name,” the combat veteran said while seated in his Fort Worth apartment. “Everything you see in my apartment is brand new. I have a job. I have a purpose in life. I look back at my past. And as bad as it is I wouldn’t change anything. Because the man that i am today is because of my past.”

Ruffert is the program’s first graduate. He received a plaque from the judge administering the program and a standing ovation from the more than a dozen veterans who reported to the courtroom as part of their ongoing participation in the program.

“My purpose was to get my life back with God,” Ruffert said. My purpose was to get my life back with my kids. My purpose is to be a minister to help my fellow veterans, not just in Tarrant county or in Texas, but nationwide. And that’s why I can tell my story.”

  • LTC Johnson

    What a wonderful story. GOD Bless you, sir. Thank you for telling your story as hard as it is to tell you will be helping other Veterans to get the help they need. I am a retired LTC and I want to thank you for your service to our country. Bless you

  • John Adams

    Being an Army Veteran myself and having been through a similar situation – I salute you for having the courage to tell your story so that other veterans will know that they are not alone and there is help out there.
    For too many decades veterans have been cast aside after gallantly serving their country.

  • Laurie

    You inspire me with your courage, strength and determination. Thank you for sharing and having the courage to tell and share your story. I greatly admire you. God bless you and love always.

  • Shannon

    Do not speak of your story as if it were over, your life has much worth and meaning…you are an American hero, and God in his infinite wisdom has kept you here for a purpose and he will see you through, You are a true hero as hard as it is to tell your story…it is one that must be told. You have a family that loves you.

  • Jacquie Barbavian

    You are here because God has a special purpose for your life. Not that he didn’t for the others, it was simply their time to be Angels again. The power of life and death is in God’s hands and no other. Do not beat yourself up if you did the BEST YOU COULD.! THAT IS ALL ANYONE CAN ASK OF THEMSELVES. LOOK AT HOW MANY LIVES YOU WERE ABLE TO HELP SAVE! AND IS STILL HELPING TO SAVE! THANK GOD YOU ARE STILL HERE FOR THAT PURPOSE!

  • Lori Pruiett Black


  • Jacquie Barbavian

    Here is his full story…what a true American Hero. Richard thank you so much for all that you do for veterans across our nation. You are a HERO.
    Suicide Attempt Survivor, on May 19, 2009 my life changed…”My Story”!/note.php?note_id=156855307676382

  • Jamie Schneck-Meyers

    Your story was very compelling & it saddens me to think that someone could ever feel that death was their BEST option. Especially our military personnel who should all be reagrded as heros. I am so happy that you have been given another chance by our merciful God to serve yourself & others! I believe that everything happens for a reason & I truly believe this happened in order for you to find your purpose. You did what we are all supposed to do & turned a negative experience into a positive to help others. Thank you for stepping out & sharing your story! God definitely had a plan for you – you are serving your felow man & country in a diferent way now! I am so happy that you have turned things around for yourself! Once again, THANK YOU for my freedom & MAY GOD BLESS YOU EVERY DAY IN EVERY WAY, RICK!

  • Karla Ware

    May God bless you & all those who serve in our military. You have a wonderful family and grand kids who love you. Thank you for being strong enough to tell you story. We have so many veterans who do not and end up comitting suicide. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for all that you have done in the name of liberty for our great country…YOU are a TRUE HERO. God Bless

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    […] Court Program Gives Veterans A Second Chance The Veteran’s Diversion Program allows veterans to have minor criminal charges against them dropped if they complete treatment for their PTSD. Read more on CBS 11 Dallas – Fort Worth […]

  • Angela

    I hope other veterans with the same illness can see what getting help can do. I hope this country can finally give back to the soldiers who have given so much! I am so happy that your life is on the right track. You should be an inspiration to others and I hope they can follow your lead. God bless you!!

  • Amanda

    So thankful that I have you back in my life Dad! All of this is ONLY possible because of Christ! I could have never let you back in my life without God’s grace and you could have never gotten healthy with out God’s mercy. I’m so thankful for you! Love you!!

  • Richard Ruffert

    Everyone thank you for your nice comments.
    Amanda my oldest daughter the mother to my four grand kids, Avin, Parker, Cooper, and Reed I love you more than life itself. Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for giving me that second chance to be a father and a Grand Father. I love you with all my life. You are an amazing woman, daughter, mother, wife and most of all a friend. I miss and love you, Ashley, and Nathan. GOD Bless You All, Love DAD

  • Professor Watson, Sara

    Thank you for sharing your story with America. You are a TRUE AMERICAN HERO, and gave so much for us today, so we can live in a free country. We want you to know that you are loved by so many people you have not even met yet. Thank GOD; he was not finished with you just yet!!! You should know that you have a new purpose in life, and that is to serve your GOD. You can help so many other people, veterans and soldiers just by telling your story. We look forward in hearing your story here on campus at Texas Christian University. Be Strong and Proud of who you are today. I was touched by your daughter’s comment. I must admit that it did bring tears of joy to my eyes and heart. Thank you, Richard

  • Karla Laib Wingo

    Rick, sorry what you have been through, but like you said, your the man now because what you have been through. I am so proud of you!!!

  • Lisa Bray Karges

    Good Luck Rick!! Very proud of u!!! Wish u would come back to Eville sometime though. Take care.

  • Kris Joynes Chapin

    Richard, what an awesome story you have… and what an incredible testament to God! Inspiring & encouraging- in a HUGE way. Thank you for all your support, and how much you are doing to help those who need exactly what you are sharing. It takes a lot of energy – physical and mental as well as spiritual- to keep up the pace you have been keeping lately! We have followed your Veterans Courts page since April 2010 and we have seen it grow to almost 5,000 members. You have helped so many people and troops by being honest and telling your story. We were in Austin, Texas at the State Capital when you gave your speech about Homeless Veterans, Combat PTSD, Suicide, and about your kids. It takes a huge person to be able to come forward like you did. You kids must be very proud of you today. We just read Amanda’s post about and saw her family photo. You have a wonderful family. Thank GOD he was not done with you on May 19, 2009. You are a HERO and do not forget it. Please keep telling you story. It saved our son’s life. He was there also in Austin. He is a Marine who lost both legs and thought about suicide many times, but since he talked to you his life has changed. He is a new man today, because of you, one man who had the guts to tell the American people what is going wrong in our military and VA. Semper Fi my brother-in-arms.

  • Jerry Miles

    Thank you for sharing your story. As a combat veteran I am glad we have these programs for us. Only a veteran knows what another veterans feels. Thank GOD gave you another chance and was not ready for you to leave this earth. Your work is not done yet. Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Jerry

  • Jenny

    Richard, what a story. GOD is not done with you just yet. I read you story on Facebook Veterans Courts and what a man of GOD you are! It is not easy to come forward and put your personal life out to the public, only a man of the Lord can do this so it can help others. After seeing your story on the news and knowing what you have been through and to be able to help others is nothing but the blessing of the Lord. Please keep telling your story we need more heroes in this world like you. Your Sister-In-Arms, Jenny

  • Betty & Mark Tate

    You are a gift from GOD. He is going to use you to let other veterans know that they can ask for help and be strong. I want to thank you, because my son saw your story and told me he needed help because he was having thoughts of suicide. He is now in a treatment hospital at the VA because of your story. I owe you everything. Thank you for being strong enough to open up your personal life to the world. GOD will use you again, and again. You have a wonderful family and Amanda’s is a gift from GOD. You will always have a place in my heart. You saved our son’s life.

  • Carry and Debbie Miller

    Richard thank you for telling your story to America! We lost our Combat Veteran Son to suicide he was too scared to ask for help. We tried and tried to get him help but he was too scared and he let his pride get in the way. After seeing you on the news last week I have been thinking about writing you a note to let you know how we feel. GOD has a purpose for you and he wants you to mentor to other veterans. Please do not even think that you were able to live by the hands of doctors, it was the hands of GOD who saved you. You are a walking miracle. No one should ever live through what you did by taking 90 morphine pills would kill you in a couple of hours. I know I am a nurse. Thank the Lord that you have your kids back in your life now and GOD is your leader. You are a TRUE AMERICAN HERO. Carry & Debbie

  • Julie

    I read your personal story about what you went through. It takes a lot of intelligence and confidence to write and talk about something like that. I am so sorry that you had to go through something like that. It does seem like you have found your purpose which is to speak for all of the men, women and families who are serving or who have served in the war and have difficulties when returning. How I wish you could have found peace with yourself when I met you, but that does not mean that I have not forgiven you because I have. When I read your story it brought back how much pain I had when you left me, but it was obviously not as bad as what I thought it was, because I never thought about ending my life over it. It made me somewhat see that you were in a really bad place in your life. I admire you for your courage and am so proud of you for repairing things with your children and grandchildren. For some odd reason I have always had a special place for you in my heart. I guess I could see what others could not, although you couldn’t see how much I cared either. My life is so much better than i once thought it was. I love my children and Clark and I have grown to understand and love each other in ways that I never thought were possible. We have found common interests that have helped us come together. It is a marriage that has definitely had to be worked on, that is going on 18 years. I hope that we can reconnect and catch up with each other in a whole new way. I hope that I will talk to you soon. You are a true American Hero, and a man of GOD. Only GOD could have saved you that night, and I am very thankful he did. It gives me peace to know you are now safe and have found your new purpose. Reading your story on Facebook really touched my heart. I am so happy and glad you are a man of GOD. I wish you all the best in this world. You have some beautiful kids and grandkids. Who would ever guess you are going to become a Chaplain and give back to your fellow brothers and sisters in arms. I know you will be a good one. You always sold yourself short about being intelligent. It takes a lot to be able to speak about your life and what has happened to you, only a true hero can do that. Again, thank you for serving your country, but most of all thank you for finding your new purpose. Your friend always, Julie

  • Laurie McGratty

    You inspire me with your courage, strength and determination. Thank you for sharing and having the courage to tell and share your story. I greatly admire you. God bless you

  • MaMrlenaanna Carrizales Ramirez

    Do not speak of your story as if it were over, your life has much worth and meaning…you are an American Hero, and God in his infinate wisdom has kept you here for a purpose and he will see you through. MaMrlenaanna

  • Jerri Mayers

    I want to help you make a difference! Thank you for sharing this is such a thing that Congress pushes aside! Awareness is the only way! From a suicide widow point of view we got through this life for a reason and we can all make a difference one way or another! God Bless you! Thank you for sharing you are a inspiration.

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