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Local veteran seeking help for PTSD

James Calder, Sept. 15th 2016, (KTVL/Megan Allison)

MEDFORD -- James Calder is a retired Command Sergeant Major, the highest rank in the army. He served for 28 years. As time went on, Calder began suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

"I couldn't feel any worse if I shot my daughter in the face with a gun. I've felt like some of the things that I've had to do and the things that I've seen have doomed my soul," he said.

The veteran retired last June after hurting his wife, realizing he was too mentally ill to continue serving. In January he moved to his hometown of Medford. Since then, he has been unable to get psychological help for PTSD.

"It must be because the system is willing to accept that I might die. And that is just a statistic that will go in the records," Calder said.

The veteran said until speaking with News10 he was unable to look at his military memorabilia. Calder said he feels ashamed.

"All that effort and sacrifice ended up not working because at the end of all of it...the result is that I feel that my country has abandoned me," he said.

Michael Weld is the coordinator for residential treatment programs at the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinic. He said Veterans Affairs staff struggle with not being able to provide the right resources for vets.

"It impacts our staff here that we're not able to be everything to everyone. We work within the resources that we have," Weld said.

The coordinator said the biggest problem is getting providers to treat illnesses like PTSD.

"We are truly in a rural environment. And attracting providers to come here to provide those kinds of treatments is very, very difficult," Weld said.

Weld said they often see PTSD along with traumatic brain injuries. Elaine Ritchey supervises the consult and care coordination team at the White City VA facility. She said in her five years they're seeing these injuries even more.

"I think it's growing. I really do. As Michael said, the two biggest issues growing out of our military force are TBIs and PTSD," Ritchey said.

Calder received counseling and psychiatric help from the White City VA. He said from professionals and in the community he is often given suicide hotline numbers. But the veteran said this is not enough.

"Once we've made up our mind that we have no other choice and the gun goes to my head with the trigger pulled...there's no phone call. Why would I call someone," Calder said.

As he seeks care, the retired sergeant plans to continue fighting for his life, so he can help others.

"Using my knowledge and tools and abilities and resources to identify the things that can be fixed now and to help the fight to fix things that will take longer," Calder said.

After NEWS 10 spoke with James Calder the VA told him they are getting him in treatment in Boise, Idaho.

They're covering his expenses and Calder plans to leave next week.

For more on Calder's story, you can visit his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/james.calder.1656?ref=br_rs

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