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Tigard 5k works to support returning veterans


Tigard organization hopes 5K race will help raise funds to help veterans struggling with PTSD

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Daniel York is founder and director of VetRest, an organization that helps veterans with PTSD. The group is organizing a 5k run next month to raise money to hire new coachesIf you want to make a difference in the lives of people struggling with the affects of posttraumatic stress, you might consider going for a run.

Next month, a general in the U.S. Army Reserves is hosting a series of 5K runs across the United States called Onaway to help returning veterans get the help they need.

The first race kicks off from Cook Park in Tigard on July 12.

Major General Daniel York, who lives in Tigard, said he was sick of seeing good men and women take their own lives after returning from combat zones.

“We needed to do something tangible to combat this,” York said.

Two years ago, York started VetRest, a Tigard nonprofit that works to get veterans help when they begin to show symptoms of posttraumatic stress.

And theyre off!

What: Onaway Run 5k

Where: Cook Park, 17005 S.W. 92nd Ave., in Tigard

When: Saturday, July 12

How much: $45

Proceeds benefit: VetRest, a Tigard group that helps battle posttraumatic stress among veterans

For more info: Visit onawayrun.org or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

York splits his time as director of the organization and commander of the 76th Operational Response Command in Salt Lake City.

VetRest has 13 coaches spread across Washington, California, Oregon and Colorado currently working with patients, with plans to expand.

Right now, about 20 veterans are undergoing coaching, mostly in Washington and the Denver area, York said.

“Portland is really hurting for coaches,” he said. “You can blame me for that, I’m just gone too much with my Army job to really be available as a coach.”

But next month’s race should help change that, York said. The hope is that Onaway — an expression in the Chippewa language meaning “first to arrive” — will help to raise enough funds to hire more Portland-area coaches for the fledgling organization.

York expects the Tigard race will be small this year, but says he hopes to see it grow in the next few years.

“I want this to be the gift that keeps on giving, but our first goal is just to get runners,” he said. “If we had 150 people show up, I would be thrilled.”

Five other races are planned in Texas, Colorado, California and Washington to help grow the programs in those communities as well, York said.

An epidemic

Too often, veterans are unable to cope with civilian life when they return home. Struggling with posttraumatic stress and depression, many commit suicide.

According to the Defense Department, 29.7 suicides were reported per 100,000 full-time soldiers in 2012, the last year data is available. Among male soldiers, that rate soared to 31.8 suicides per 100,000 soldiers.

More than 300,000 veterans have posttraumatic stress, York said.

Generals in the Army receive an email every time a soldier takes his/her own life, York said.

“I would get one to three emails a week, typically,” York said. “Seeing these day after day after day, all over the country, it’s really sad. I had a choice — I could sit and read these messages every day of people blowing their brains out, or I could do something.”

It’s estimated that 20 percent of all members of the armed services deployed will develop the disorder.

York said work being done to combat posttraumatic stress, such as medication, doesn’t stamp out the root cause.

“I have a kid in Colorado who was prescribed four different medications from four different doctors, and nobody knew what the other was prescribing. That’s a recipe for disaster,” York said. “These people sacrificed for their nation. It’s not right to treat them that way.”

All soldiers in combat zones feel fear, he said, but by coming to terms with what sparked the posttraumatic stress, the veterans can heal.

“Sometimes, it’s the things you saw that were horrendous that nobody should have to see,” said York, a former pastor. “Like a baby who was shot, or if you had to open fire on a truck that wouldn’t stop and find out the driver was a confused teen. Those are things you have to reconcile.

“Once you know what the problem is, you can see some pretty significant change in that person.”

Many soldiers don’t realize they have the disorder, York said, but having someone to talk to helps them realize what is happening to them.

“They might not know why they are suddenly getting mad at their wife every 10 minutes, or why they want to hit their son. They know that their temper is more on edge and that they are drinking more, but they don’t know why.”

York has big plans for VetRest in the future, including counseling, companion dogs and other programs, but said the group is still getting its legs.

“We are still in the embryonic stage,” he said. “But Portland is a great city. For a nonmilitary town, it’s amazing how much people care about helping veterans.”

For more about onaway runs and VetRest, visit onawayrun.org.