By Craig Day, The News On 6
TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma -- An Oklahoma soldier wounded in Iraq is taking part in a vocational rehabilitation pilot program. It's helping soldiers with brain injuries transition from the war zone to the workforce as firearms instructors.
Pat Oglesbee is from Tahlequah and is lucky to be alive and doing what he loves. He just completed the year-long program to become a certified firearms instructor.
"It's been very good. It's like a dream come true for me," Oglesbee said.
It's a dream that hadn't crossed his mind when he was on his second tour in Iraq and a bullet hit his helmet. Oglesbee continued his combat tour, only to discover later he had a brain injury.
"I noticed I was having a hard time remembering stuff. My soldiers were, and my commanders were noticing, ‘well you know, he's just not the same,'" said Oglesbee.
Along with those lingering problems, Oglesbee wondered what life after the military would be like.
"The biggest thing for me was a loss of identity. I left the military, left guys that I loved. Left a job where I was important. I wanted to be a career guy and that just wasn't in the cards," said Oglesbee.
That's when he began the vocational rehab program through the V.A. that included training at the United States Shooting Academy in Tulsa to become a firearms instructor.
"I get to continue to do what I love, and anytime you do what you love, you're going to be great at it," said Oglesbee.
Two other soldiers with similar brain injuries are now taking part in the pilot program. Oglesbee is the first to finish. He says he has seen improvements in concentration, focus and memory.
Oglesbee hopes the program can expand and says if it's worked for him, it might work for other injured military men and women trying to get back to civilian life.
Oglesbee starts work Wednesday as a firearms instructor who will train federal agents.