HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A celebration of recovery: Two military veterans marked their graduation from Veterans Court Friday. They were joined by family, friends and other supporters at the Dauphin County Courthouse.

Veterans Court offers veterans an intensive mental health and substance use treatment program instead of jail time. One graduate said this gave him the tools he needed to turn his life around.

Wendell Mozee celebrated that second chance Friday.

“A feeling I can never describe. Grateful, humble,” he said.

After a year and a half, the Air Force veteran is graduating from Dauphin County’s Veterans Court program.

“You get what you put in, and I put 200 in,” Mozee said.

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Mozee says his struggles started in the Air Force.

“Something that’s very real and alive today — racism,” he said, adding it was the first time he had really faced serious racism “in my face.”

In that time, he also lost his younger brother to suicide.

“After all this happened, I was in a dark place,” Mozee said.

After an honorable discharge, he returned to Harrisburg, but his experience affected his mental health and he eventually turned to drugs and alcohol.

“Whatever demon I was dealing with at the time, it just basically made me forget about things, but in actuality, it really wasn’t because it just led to more problems,” he said.

Mozee spent time in and out of jail and in 2019, hit rock bottom.

“[I was] caught with a healthy amount of fentanyl and meth, and I was looking at some serious time,” he said.

That — and a near death experience– were the wake up calls and Mozee finally got the chance to join Veterans Court. He says it gave him the structure and support he needed to make a new start.

“I’m just blessed because honestly, I shouldn’t even be here,” he said. “Because I was out for three and a half hours and obviously, it wasn’t my time, and I’m here today, so I am a miracle.”

Mozee said now, he wants to take what he’s learned and use it to help others who are now where he once was.

“We can only keep what we have by giving it away and it was given to me freely, so why would I be selfish and not give it back?” he said.

Mozee is working to get certified as a recovery specialist and eventually wants to open a safe haven to give others the same second chance he got.