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Light a Candle and, Possibly, Save a Life

Reported by Marie Therese - May 18, 2006

News Hounds Editorial

It's so easy for those of us living in comfort and security, who have never experienced war, to speak in platitudes and generalities about that which we do not understand. I remember so vividly even today the dark quiet of the two guys I knew who had returned from Vietnam in the 70s. Even in my 20s I understood that their experiences somehow separated them from me, that they harbored a secret that neither was willing to share. At parties they would stand against the wall or sit in the chairs in the corner of the room. It wasn't until years later that I realized that they had - perhaps unconsciously - reconnoitered the room and staked out the most protected, defensible positions in it. Sadly, today I do not remember their names. They entered my circle of friends and cycled out rather quickly. What I do remember is how hard it was for them to open up. Crude jokes, yes. True feelings, no. Now I know that they were experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that once again looms large among our returning veterans, sometimes with tragic consequences.

On December 22, 2005 SPC Joshua Lee Omvig, age 22, of the 339th MP Company of the Iowa National Guard, lost his battle with PTSD. While his frantic mother looked on, Joshua shot himself in his truck parked in the driveway of his family home in Iowa.

Ellen and Randy Omvig emerged from their shock to discover that their son's condition is treatable but that the Veterans' Administration, despite government press releases to the contrary, has cut the money for post-war medical care for our returning veterans. As is so often the case in the wake of unspeakable tragedy, the Olvigs have reached out in an effort to help other veterans, in the hope that no one else will suffer the way their young son suffered.

Here's what they've written:

Josh was a Proud American, an American Hero and a member of the United States Army Reserve 339th MP Company based in Davenport, Iowa. He recently returned from an 11 month tour of duty in Iraq, fighting for his country and it's people in "Operation Iraqi Freedom." Josh was a PROUD member of the Grundy Center American Lutheran Church, the Grundy Center Volunteer Fire Department, and the Grundy Center Police Reserves.

He insisted on graduating early from high school after joining the reserves at just 17 years of age. So excited about his future, he wanted to get into basic training as fast as he could....He had wanted, his whole life to be a police officer, to serve and protect his country, and it's citizens. The Army Reserves was his ticket to achieving that dream.

......then came 911, The War Against Terror, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Iraq.

While serving his duty in Iraq for an 11 month "tour" the conditions where unimaginable, and worse yet were the UNSPEAKABLE "jobs" and "duties" they had to do.

Josh loved his country, and was HONORED to defend her and the freedoms of it's people. He knew why he had to do the things he and others did, he was just never able to recover from having seen and done them.

He came home a year ago with PTSD (POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER) and was never the same.

Josh's "DEBRIEFING" consisted of ONLY 15 minutes of "Welcome Home, Got any Problems? No? Great, well, Let us know... See Ya"

THIS IS COMMON AMONG OUR RETURNING NATIONAL GUARD AND RESERVE UNITS!

THIS IS NOT EVEN THEIR PROTOCOL (rules) FOR DEBRIEFING!

What they are doing (OR NOT DOING) is killing our troops!

We knew Josh was having a hard time, but not in ANY way to the extent it REALLY was. We surely didn't know it had a name, or that it was an epidemic with our American Heroes in and returning from Iraq.

We knew there was such a thing as PTSD, but it just never "clicked" that THIS was what was happening to our Josh!..Josh was the clown, the one with the smile, the one who made others feel better. He hid the magnitude this disorder had on him very well. He suffered in silence like MOST of our soldiers with PTSD are doing.

On Thurs. Dec. 22, 2005, just twenty weeks ago, our Josh took his life after leaving a note explaining his torment.

Through the course of Josh's viewing and funeral ( attended by an overflow crowd of over 500 ), his family was made aware there were others suffering from the same disorder, in silence, like Josh had.

While sitting in the Emergency Room for ONE HOUR with their dead son's body, being asked and explained about ORGAN DONATION, the nurse got off the phone with University Hospital in Iowa City and told Josh's parents that despite Josh's request to have his organs donated "OH, I'M SORRY, WE FORGOT THAT HE CAN'T DONATE BECAUSE HE WAS IN THE MID EAST... HE HAS A VIRUS."

When asked "WHAT Virus", they were 'put off' and never responded to.

When BEGGED by Josh's parents to TEST him to SEE if he had a VIRUS "just in case he COULD DONATE".. They just said "WE WON'T CHECK THE BODIES, EVERYBODY FROM THE MID EAST HAS GOT IT" ...it's a blanket policy!!

*note* We are still trying to get SOMEONE to tell us WHAT THIS VIRUS IS! And have since found out that RADIATION (DEPLETED URANIUM) is also a "EVERYBODY from the Mid East HAS IT!"

I encourage anyone reading this post to go to the Olvigs' website and read what they've written about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

While there, why not take a moment and light a virtual candle?

And, please, pass this information on to your family, friends and business associates. Let's help the Omvigs in their quest to educate everyone about PTSD.

Additionally, they'd like you to write to your Congressperson and Senators to demand that more money be set aside for PTSD treatment for our returning veterans.

Contacting the Congress

Please note: This post is about an issue that is non-partisan. Please keep comments respectful and civil.


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