The mother and father of an Iowa soldier who took his own life after returning from duty in Iraq was given a copy today of the suicide prevention bill passed by Congress in honor of their son. Randy and Ellen Omvig of Grundy Center used their son Joshua’s death to focus attention on the bill designed to cut the number of suicides among veterans.
During a ceremony today, Randy Omvig’s voice wavered with emotion as he thanked Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell, and Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley for pushing their son’s cause. “Congressmen, Senators, you will never really know how many lives you have or will save,” Omvig said, “but you may be assured that there are families and loved ones who will be able to hold onto and have the best life possible for their veteran because of what you have done with this bill. Thank you so very much.”
The “Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act” requires the Veterans Administration to develop a comprehensive program to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. It also mandates new training for medical staff and directs every V-A facility to designate a suicide prevention counselor.
The Omvig’s began lobbying Congress for better care for returning veterans shortly after their son’s death. Randy Omvig says they were just trying to help others. He says they just wanted to what they could to help so many veterans cope, “And we didn’t want to lose any more people.” Joshua Omvig served 11 months in Iraq before returning home to Iowa. His father Randy says Josh’s initial happiness to be home masked the man’s struggle with the post traumatic stress disorder.
Omvig says that’s says that’s why it’s so important to have early intervention and get out the word that certain things can happen from the service. “Nobody comes back the same from the experiences that they’ve had over there,” Omvig says. Randy says by the time he and his wife began to see signs of distress, it was too late.
Omvig says one of the last thins his son said, was “I’ve been dead every since I left Iraq.” President Bush signed the legislation into law in November. Last year the Army reported 85 soldier suicides, including 27 in Iraq and four in Afghanistan. It was the highest number since 1990.