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By Amber Hayden
COLFAX — For Jim Osterman, the way he has found his sense of healing and ways to combat depression has been to jump on the back of a motorcycle or to jump out of planes.
Osterman enlisted in the Navy when he was 17 with the permission of his parents, and left 22 days after graduation for Iraq.
“A handful of us signed up right after Kuwait got invaded back in August of 1990,” Osterman explained. “I was in a military class throughout high school and it was something I knew I was going to do at some point in my life.”
After a rough patch, in 1998 Osterman found himself depressed and on the verge of suicide, but he was able to pull himself out of that and find a new purpose in life.
Osterman found himself connected to Colfax after becoming a medic on the Colfax Rescue Squad 17 years ago, and has continued to find satisfaction in helping people.
His best story comes from a time his neighbor was having a heart attack, and he had heard the page come across.
“I called Donnie (Don Knutson, director of the Colfax Rescue Squad) and told him I would meet him there,” Osterman explained. “So I saw my neighbor two or three days later at the little gas station and he looked at me as I was about to pay and said are you the SOB that gave me a bumpy ride the other day. I told him no I was the SOB that was bouncing around in the back with you.”
Since he began skydiving, Osterman has visited 77 drop zones and jumped in 32 states but visited 36. He hasn’t been able to jump in New Hampshire as they do not have a drop zone, or in Florida and New Mexico as weather has played a factor on the days he has attempted to jump. He also has yet to make it to Alaska and Hawaii, but he plans to travel there in the future.
In 2018 he was sticking mainly to the west coast when he had gotten a phone call from a friend in Georgia who was in a bad place.
“I MapQuested it and said I would be there in three days,” commented Osterman. “So I made a bee line over to Georgia and stayed with a friend for four or five days.”
Osterman can’t say he had much to do with the outcome of the man he helped, but after leaving he watched as his friend turned his life around in a positive way.
Veterans Skydive 4 Life
In 2015 High Ground of Neillsville asked him to build a stage that would display the boots of the 22 veterans per day who are lost to suicide.
Osterman explained he was fine with making the stage, but shortly before the boots were to go on display he had received phone calls that two of his good friends had taken their own lives and it hit him hard.
“I left and drove home and told my wife that I was going to do something, and so I started a plan to go on a motorcycle ride to clear my head,” he explained. “So in 2014 there was no organization, but the thought had been planted and I went 10,000 miles cross country on a motorcycle and tried to just talk to people.”
His goal in 2014 was to get people involved and helping to take veterans to the drop zones where Osterman could speak with vets and sky dive with him if they wanted to.
“Jumping out of planes and motorcycling is my kind of therapy,” he stated.
Last year Osterman traveled 20,000 miles on his motorcycle which coincided with the number of veterans per day, which according to Veteran’s Assistance (VA) is now at 20.
Osterman met with and took 20 veterans skydiving this past year and has set a goal for 20,000 followers on FaceBook by the end of 2020, which is the goal to wrap the whole organization around the number 20.
“Our biggest goal is to see the number at zero,” he explained. “Which we know is an unrealistic goal, but our goal is to see that number decrease as much as possible and as quickly as possible.”
Veterans Skydive 4 Life is currently in the process of obtaining their 501(c3) status. This is the part of the Internal Revenue Code that allows federal tax exemption of non-profit organizations, specifically those considered public charities, private foundations or private operating foundations. It is administrated by the US Department of Treasury through the IRS.
To file the paperwork will cost an estimated $1,000 when it is all said and done and there are several rules and regulations that Veterans Skydive 4 Life will have to adhere to.
Osterman stated he had reached out to several other organizations such as Road to Freedom and Vets Fighting for Vets, both out of Menomonie, and both groups had been helpful in giving tips of how to go about things and not make the same mistakes they had when they first started.
“I want to make sure we don’t screw up, I was reading that it is easy to make a mistake,” he commented. “I am cautious about all the paperwork and being organized. We aren’t a 501(c3) yet but we have a board of directors and bylaws.”
The hang up for Osterman and VS4L is the $1,000 it will cost to file the paperwork.
Over the next two and a half months VS4L will be holding two separate events, the first on July 13 that will consist of a motorcycle ride from Colfax to Arcadia and ending at The High Ground in Neillsville.
And the second event will take place in Jefferson at Wisconsin Skydiving Center on August 31. It will be a family event but Osterman will also be jumping with 10 other veterans.
Osterman and his fellow bikers will begin their Saturday, July 13, run at the Q&B Bar and Grill in Chippewa Falls and make their way to Colfax as the first stop on the three leg ride.
“Our bike ride hasn’t gotten off to a great start,” Osterman explained. “A month ago I spoke with the manager of Q&B and they were happy to let us use them as a starting point as we would patronize the establishment before leaving.”
But since the talk a month ago Q&B closed their doors and Osterman also found out several other motorcycle rides will be happening that day as well.
But with riders making 13 hour drives from Detroit and the Illinois, Osterman wanted to accommodate the ten riders and their schedule.
The main goal for Osterman and the stop in Colfax at the Vietnam memorial located at Tom Prince Memorial Park is to potentially expand the memorial and make it bigger than it currently is.
“We spoke with Mr. Yingst at length,” said Osterman. “We know it is a simple plaque right now and that is how most memorials start. We would love to see it bigger and love the fact it is a Vietnam memorial.”
Right now the highest rate of veterans that take their lives are Vietnam veterans, according to Osterman, so his hope is to help people understand that even a simple conversation can help.
The skydiving event scheduled for August 31 is still awaiting a name, but Osterman had already taken one to the board of directors and was hoping to have the vote to call the event “Veterans Win Therapy”. Win therapy is considered anything that someone is doing to combat their depression or bad moments, and coming out on the other side for the better.
His hope is despite the bad stigma that envelopes the word “therapy” the skydiving event will have a great turnout.
“The stigma is usually that you’re weak because you’re going to therapy,” said Osterman. “But my answer for that is, ‘I’m jumping out of a plane. Are you going to do that? How weak am I?’”
VS4L wants to embrace the stigma that therapy means you’re weak, because to Osterman there is no falser statement that he can think of.
If you have any questions about VS4L you can contact Jim Osterman at 715-933-0797 or email the organization at VS4L.firstname.lastname@example.org.