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Editor's Note: Logan Harding took first-place honors with this essay, submitted in the annual Friends of Southern Hills Writing Contest. Students were asked to place themselves in the role of an elected official and to respond to a constituent who needed their help with a personal or family problem.
The Humvee cruised through the small town on the Iraq border. As the 142nd Airbome Division drove through the town, a man ran out in the road in front of them.
The Humvee stopped and asked what the man wanted. He told the soldiers that his nearby truck had stalled and he couldn't restart it. He asked if they could please help him. He led the soldiers down the road and turned and went halfway through a deserted alley and there sat the beat-up old truck.
What happened next is almost too horrible to tell. As the Humvee drew up next to the truck and stopped, the Iraqi man opened the door of the truck and pulled something out.
Before the soldiers could react, there was a huge explosion. The man was a terrorist. He had placed a bomb next to the gas tank on the truck, therefore doubling the strength of the explosion. Sadly for Dean, the war had only just begun.
After the explosion, Dean and his fellow comrades had been badly hurt. Dean's leg was so badly hurt that the doctors had no choice but to amputate it. On the left side of his face there were burns to his cheek and head which needed some facial reconstruction to repair.
Luckily, his face healed and he was able to get a prosthetic leg allowing him to keep on walking. Although he was in good shape, something had changed inside Dean, mentally.
One day I, Mayor Jim Schenk of New Albany, sat in my office going through the large stack of papers on my custom-made desk. I grabbed a letter off the top and opened it and began reading.
The letter was from a local man named Dean Carter. In the letter, Dean asked if there was any place nearby to help people and former soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was a former soldier who had been injured in the war and was now suffering from PTSD and didn't know what to do or where to go.
Even though there were no current treatment centers in our town, I was immediately hooked on helping this injured veteran.
The very next morning I drove to Dean Carter's house. I knocked on the door and out stepped Dean. He told me to come ahead in and talk. Dean explained to me all about the war and being injured. He also told me about his PTSD. He couldn't stand it anymore. Every time he heard a bang or other loud noise he froze, fearing the worst had happened.
He remembered that day in Iraq every time he heard a loud sound. Dean couldn't even enjoy the Fourth of July anymore because of all the loud pops and bangs around him.
He was also drawing away from his family and friends more and more every day because he didn't know if he could trust anyone after what had happened.
I was shocked at how much the PTSD had affected his life. I told him I would help him all I could. I suggested that he come to my office once a week so he could have someone to talk to. I also told him he could trust me and he wouldn't have to go through anything like this ever again.
When I got back to my office I immediately began calling people and got things in motion.
I scheduled fundraisers and public announcements to raise money and awareness. I made it my civic duty to help people like Dean and get a counseling center built. I looked on my computer for information about community mental-health centers.
I found out that the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant of the Public Health Service Act is the largest federal contribution for improving mental health.
The program awards grants to states that help people with mental illnesses. I hoped to receive one of these grants. I picked up the phone and called the number. The woman on the other end of the line said she would see what she could do and would call me back.
Since there was nowhere for Dean to go locally, I began surfing the Internet for community mental-health centers in other nearby cities or towns.
After about an hour of fruitless searching, I finally found a place that was good and close by. I offered to go with Dean once a week to get counseling.
Along with my help and the counseling center, Dean was slowly able to overcome the strong grips of PTSD. Even though Dean no longer needs my help, he and I are still close friends.
Dean is now the leader of an activities board to raise money for a new community mental-health center that will be built in his honor. Also, he is going to go back to school and hopes to become a counselor to help people like himself.
I feel good about helping him and I am sure he is grateful as well.
We have to remember that no matter how bad things seem, there is a way to overcome our fears. Reach out and help!