A hard elbow can be the difference between a veteran spending his or her best years between a jail cell and a street corner, or working toward a full reintegration into their native civilian society.
For 25 veterans gathered in a courtroom in the Criminal Justice Center Wednesday, it was that elbow that pushed them toward a second chance.
The 25 graduated Philadelphia's Veterans Court after successfully completing the required nine-month treatment program, which helps vets who lost themselves in a dizzy spell of addiction and broke the law, get back on track. With the help of the court, a city-run rehab program, they found their way back and were honored for their reclamation.
The city prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Rich Bower, first congratulated the veterans for facing their problems head on.
"Second of all," he added, "I want to apologize to all of you, sometimes our role is a little different. … sometimes we have to be the guys or the gals to throw you an elbow or two to get you back on track, so hopefully it's water under the bridge."
Each veteran received a diploma, a coin, and no more than 30 seconds on the microphone to address their peers.
Terrance Foster, who served in the Army from 2000 to 2005, said he doesn't like to ask for help, and especially hates feeling helpless.
"Being the man that I am, leadership as always been important," Foster said. "I'm not very proud to be elbowed."
But for Drew Benter, who served in the Army from 1984 to 1987, and after 9/11 served again from 2005 to 2013, "I did need those elbows," he said.
"I was one of those guys that needed the elbows, we all know what it's like," he added. "But coming back, it's a good feeling."