Congressman Leonard Boswell staged a news conference in Grundy Center Tuesday to stand with the parents of an Iraq war veteran who committed suicide.
Boswell is sponsoring a bill that he’s named in honor of that soldier — the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act.
The bill would force the Veterans Administration to test those who are leaving the military to determine if they have a tendency toward suicide or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “This would require them to identify those people and take action,” Boswell says.
Boswell contends Defense Department and Veterans Administration staff need to be better trained to recognize and deal with those who are suicidal. Joshua Omvig’s parents, Randy and Ellen, did what they could to help their son, according to Boswell. “This young lad up in Grundy Center took his life last December. The family knew he was having trouble and they were doing their best to cope with it…but they weren’t really qualified to do it,” Boswell says. “He got caught in one of his low moments and as he was reflecting on the experiences he’d had, he went out and rolled the windows up on his pick-up truck and shot himself — and his mother right there talking to him.”
Boswell, who retired in 1976 after a 20-year career in the military, is seeking a sixth term in congress this November. “I realize it’s the political season and some will say ‘Well, you’re doing that (for political reasons).’ Well, we’re not. This started right after we heard about this young lad taking his life,” Boswell says. “It needs to press on because the need is there yesterday, not tomorrow. It’s there now.”
Iowa Senators Charles Grassley and Tom Harkin are co-sponsoring similar legislation in the Senate. Both bills would require mental health counseling be available for returning combat veterans 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. Boswell’s staff says since May of 2003, 80 American soldiers have committed suicide after returning from Iraq or Afghanistan.
Boswell faces Republican Jeff Lamberti of Ankeny on the November ballot.