An Iowa veteran is claiming that the injuries he suffered during his time in combat are a major part of why he can’t seem to stay on the right side of the law.
Urbandale veteran Jason Ogletree served as an infantryman in the United States Army, even deploying to Afghanistan, where he reportedly suffered at least one traumatic brain injury.
According to his ex-wife, Micole Van Walbeek, Ogletree began to unravel after returning from Afghanistan in 2012.
“His impulse control stopped,” Van Walbeek said. “He would see something, something would bother him, and instantly, he would blow up.”
Ogletree would go on violent tantrums, even throwing his ex-wife out of the house while she was eight months pregnant with their daughter.
“He threatened to kill me (and did) things that the old Jason would never have done,” Van Walbeek said.
According to KCCI, Ogletree was blown up twice in Afghanistan, which caused massive brain damage.
Since Afghanistan, Ogletree has had countless run-ins with the law, starting around 2015. With offenses ranging from domestic violence to harassment, operating while intoxicated and assault while brandishing a deadly weapon.
Last week, Ogletree topped off his sizeable rap sheet by leading Urbandale police on a chase.
“It was 100 percent true, but my heart just sank, because they were missing the biggest factor of this, which was that this was an Army veteran and an Army Ranger with two Purple Hearts,” Van Walbeek said of her ex-husband.
Despite being the victim of his post-war instability, Van Walbeek is sympathetic towards her ex, who she says has symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disorder that often shows itself through symptoms of memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulsive behavior, aggression and thoughts of suicide.
“There is an epidemic that we have with these soldiers,” Van Walbeek said.
Dr. Ann McKee has diagnosed CTE in hundreds of football players, and believes that combat veterans suffer similar issues, particularly those exposed to explosions.
The Concussion Legacy Foundation are hoping that the public becomes more aware of the behavioral changes that can happen when veterans are exposed to traumatic brain damage, and have started a program called Project Enlist, which asks veterans to donate their brains for research after death.
“Our hope is that the public understands that military service in the modern era can damage the brain,” said Chris Nowinski, co-founder and chief executive officer of the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
For Ogletree, his world is now confined to the Pok County Jail.
“Just getting hurt so many times, it affected me personally,” he said. Nothing that he is looking to donate his brain.
Ogletree wants to see TBIs taken more seriously, and for veterans to seek treatment.
“They need to seek help,” Ogletree said. “A lot of guys think it may be being the sissy way out. It’s not.”
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