- Obama not worried about Ebola at upcoming African summit in D.C.
- Obama: ‘We tortured some folks’ after 9/11
- Obama administration asked whole D.C. Circuit to take on major Obamacare case
- Mark Levin: Topple GOP leadership or country will ‘unravel’
- Massachusetts to let police chief deny gun buys to those deemed unfit
- John Kerry condemns attack on Israeli soldiers, kidnapping
- U.S. starts to evacuate American Ebola patients from West Africa: Report
- Geraldo slammed as ‘dummy’ for backing Clinton’s bin Laden claim
- Israeli spokesman: No need to debate who broke the cease-fire
- 35 Palestinians killed; Israeli officer missing
An RPG took Josh Olson’s leg, but not sharpshooter’s spirit
Question of the Day
“I don’t care how much you yell and cuss at me,” the man said, “but I need you to sit up.”
Olson dropped from 200 pounds and the cusp of Ranger School — 61 days advertised as the Army’s most physically and mentally demanding course — to 127 pounds struggling to heft pink 5-pound weights. When Misty Snyder arrived in the first week of December, she thought her brother looked like a dying cancer patient. But the smile consuming his face remained, and so did instinctively offering to get a chair for a guest, though he couldn’t even get out of bed. That’s how Jock and Shirley Olson raised their four children: God first, others second, yourself last.
That smile broadened when President George W. Bush posed for a photograph in Olson’s room Dec. 18, 2003, after pinning the Purple Heart on his black shirt. A pair of crutches rested in the corner.
“Well sure, son, you can,” President Bush said.
At first, Olson couldn’t stand to look at the mirror above the sink in his room. The reflection appeared 10 years old, nothing like the veteran of Iraq, Kosovo and South Korea. When he put on the first prosthetic leg, with a top that resembled sliced up plastic milk jugs attached to a belt cutting into the bottom of his rib cage, and looked in another mirror, reality smacked him in the face. The loss finally seemed real. He had to rely on this metal and plastic contraption. This wouldn’t disappear. This was life.
He noticed soldiers missing two, three limbs. Others suffered brain damage. Their plight mattered more to him than his injury. The RPG’s blast could have done worse. Let’s go, he thought.
Less than three months after losing his leg, Olson stood at Fort Campbell on Jan. 4, 2004, as his unit returned from Iraq, fulfilling the vow that carried him hell-bent through the first steps of rehabilitation. But a bureaucratic snafu started the process to medically retire him from the Army, a seven-month period that took the intervention of senior Pentagon officials to overturn. Little sparked Olson more than being told he couldn’t do something. Blood seeped from the prosthetic that didn’t fit right because of abnormal bone growth, and rubbed his stump raw. The belt broke ribs in some hip disarticulation amputees. The more Olson moved, the more the discomfort grew. That didn’t matter.
He still carried Olson’s bloodstained letter to his family.
Salvation through shooting
As Olson learned to walk with his prosthetic leg, he fell. That’s normal. The tumbles pushed Shirley Olson, who believed she witnessed miracle after miracle as her son recovered, back to the life in Spokane she paused 31/2 months earlier. The falls broke her. A nurse whispered leaving was OK.
Later that year, Shirley Olson plunged into a severe clinical depression, and a psychologist diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder. Twice-weekly counseling sessions left her “A-OK” by Christmas.
Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Young, Florida Republican, and his wife, Beverly Angello, had latched on to Olson during regular visits to Walter Reed. Young regarded him as a “superhero,” impressed by his curiosity, unabashed love for the Army and, above all, determination that the amputation wouldn’t slow his life. The Congressman offered him an entry-level job.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- Declassified cables from Berlin Wall tell tale of drama, dare,
- Judge denies settlement motion in NFL concussion lawsuit
- Jay Gruden's long and winding road to Washington
- FENNO: Championship game provides an opportunity to listen to those who play
- FENNO: For Redskins, nonsensical is the new normal
Latest Blog Entries
By Orrin G. Hatch
Procedural changes impede the chamber's traditional deliberative function
- House GOP resurrects border bill, predicts successful Friday vote
- Border agents cleared of civil rights complaints from illegal immigrant children
- Ben Carson takes major step toward presidential campaign
- U.N. condemns Israel, U.S. for not sharing Iron Dome with Hamas
- Obama military strategy too weak for future security, panel reports
- Porn-surfing feds blame boredom, lack of work for misbehavior
- Feds raid S.C. home to seize Land Rover in EPA emission-control crackdown
- CRUZ: A tale of two hospitals: One in Israel, one in Gaza
- Ted Nugent slams 'lying freaks' at liberal media: I'm 'doing God's work'
- ON THE RUN: Competition for Redskins backup running back is heating up
Top 10 U.S. military helicopters
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors