In one of my recent posts, I discussed the idea that we can’t expect real changes in our society to come from our government. If we are going to see lasting change that affects the outcome of our country, it needs to come from individuals pouring their heart into the lives of others.
I work with a guy who is doing just that, and I’d like to share his story.
Jim Osterman is a vet who is passionate about doing something to prevent the alarming number of suicides that take place each year among our veterans. On average, 22 veterans commit suicide each day – a number that strikes close to home for so many families around America. Jim has experienced the crushing blow of suicide himself, losing two veteran friends to it.
While in the Navy, Jim met Steve Luzynski. Both were from Michigan and had similar interests which helped them bond quickly. After leaving the service, Jim spent several years trying to track down Steve, only to learn in 2012 that he had committed suicide. That was Jim’s first encounter with veteran’s committing suicide, but it wouldn’t be his last.
Not long after, Jim became friends with Frank Steiner who was an Iraq War veteran. Frank also took his own life and this opened Jim’s eyes to an epidemic that up to that point, hadn’t drawn enough attention.
In this year’s elections, both Hilary Clinton and President-Elect Donald Trump, spent a great deal of time discussing the staggering number of suicides taking place among our veterans. At the beginning of the campaign, the average number sat around 20 vets per day. Near the end of the campaign season, the number had increased to 22. And neither candidate had an answer on how to fix this problem.
But Jim had an idea, and this past summer, he put that idea into motion.
One thing that Jim had always missed since leaving the service, was the sense of camaraderie. Often, veterans leave their respected branch of service only to find themselves feeling a strong sense of isolation and lonesomeness. I can attest to this feeling.
For many years, after leaving the Army National Guards, I missed the men who I served with. When they were deployed for their first tour in Iraq, I had to wrestle with so much regret and guilt because I felt as if I was letting them down by not being there – even after being out of the service for two years at the time of their deployment. There is a bond that soldiers of all branches of the military form with the men and women who they serve by. When that bond is broken, there is always a hole that needs to be filled.
Families play such a large role in a veteran’s life, however, from my experience and those shared by other veteran’s, family cannot seem to fill the hole that the loss of camaraderie creates. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it’s the psychological bonds that are built up through serving in such a high-pressured environment? I don’t really have the answer to that. But I do know one thing, veterans always try to fill that void with something – and it’s not always good.
For some, its drugs and alcohol. For others, its clubs, organizations, or movements. For me, I found my place and filled my void within the church. And for Jim Osterman, he found camaraderie in the air, through skydiving.
Skydiving has become a huge passion of Jim’s. Through his time of developing his skills, he has found a culture that shares many similarities to what goes on within the ranks of the military. Through this experience, Jim realized that he had stumbled upon a great opportunity to reach out to veterans and help them fill that void in their life.
Jim is a firm believer that if the skydiving community can reach out and share their love of one another with the many veterans out there in our country, that lives can be saved. And with that, this past summer, Jim set out on a trek along the East Coast to bring this message to skydivers at 38 drop zones.
He challenged his fellow skydivers to invite vets to the drop zone. He wanted to show the vets what the community is all about and possibly help them fill the void in their life. This message was received with great enthusiasm at each of his stops.
Along the way, Jim invited fellow vets that he had served with to join him at some of the drop zones to either watch or skydive with him. The feedback he’s received from veterans whom he helped make a jump has been overwhelmingly positive. Jim has taken his love of skydiving and married it to his passion to save veterans from suicide. This is a powerful example of what I was talking about when I said that if we want to see real change in our country, then we need to go out and make that change.
Jim is making that change by spreading awareness of the suicide rate and offering a possible solution.
Jim believes that if all drop zones formulated a plan to get veterans to come out, they could possibly save lives and help lower the devastating rates of suicides taking place among our veterans. Next summer he is planning to hit the road again, this time heading west on his motorcycle to share this message with other drop zones.
So, what is your passion? How can you take that passion and use it to make a positive change in our country today? Jim’s quest has inspired me and I’ve already started laying out plans of what I want to do with my passion. I’d love to hear about yours.
Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below. If you have results to share, email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org and I might just feature it in an upcoming blog post.
Credit: Portions of this post have been taken from an original article written by Ross Nunn Eastpointe, Michigan