GIG HARBOR, Wash. – Catt Aquino was ashamed to admit she served in the Navy when she started her prison sentence on theft and drug charges.

“I didn’t want to bring dishonor to the service,” said Aquino.

But she’s glad she eventually told the Department of Corrections about her eight-year Navy career. It entitled Aquino to receive special counseling within the prison with fellow inmates with military ties.

Five years ago the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs began meeting with veterans serving sentences. They participate in group sessions with fellow-veterans and get assistance filing paperwork to ensure their military benefits, from housing to education, resume when they are released.

“You never give up your title of being a veteran,” said Department of Veterans Affairs’ Sharon Fitzpatrick. “You’ve got a safety net. The reason you have it is because you are a veteran.”

Aquino said she still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. She got into trouble by not asking for help and instead turning to alcohol and meth.

Now she’s glad she’s able to get help in prison.

“I don’t feel like anybody owes me anything,” said Aquino. “I’m just really grateful for the gratitude and that people haven’t forgotten I served and I’m not just a felon.”