TUCSON, Ariz. - After years of fighting, an Arizona veteran finally has what he’s been fighting for—an honorable discharge.
We’ve been following Jeff Osterhoudt for three years as he tried to get his military discharge changed to honorable. This week he finally won that fight.
“I was actually so happy I ended up in tears,” Osterhoudt said.
This piece of paper is everything.
It's the result of three years of petitioning, three years of meetings, lobbying, talking about the worst period in his life. All for those two words: honorable discharge.
Osterhoudt was an Army Ranger medic. A lot happened to him, both at home and overseas.
His wife was raped and died by suicide. Osterhoudt was forced to shoot a father and son in Iraq. He had friends die. He became addicted to meth.
It came to a head when he was caught with an unregistered handgun on base and a detox kit to try and beat a drug test.
His commanding officer gave him a slight break, a general discharge, not an honorable one.
Osterhoudt was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, kicked the drugs and started fighting to get back to honorable.
His last try was in Washington D.C., in person, talking to a review board.
He didn't try to make excuses, just to explain that his service contributed to what he did.
"They're open, you know? OK, this is what's going on. This is why this stuff happened. Yes, it's in violation of the rules, however, I'm not saying the rules don't apply, but this is the longest period of time we've ever been at war," Osterhoudt said. "People are going to come back with things going on in their head that wasn't there before."
This past week, Osterhoudt got his official answer, an honorable discharge. With it, comes full access to VA benefits and the ability to adopt his stepdaughter.
"That's something that plays a big role. And then when they look down two more lines and see 'narrative reason for separation' is drug abuse—well, are you going to let someone adopt a child at that point in time?" Osterhoudt said.
Over the years, Osterhoudt has met people fighting for their own upgrade, people who've fought for him, people who don't know how to fight for themselves.
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"The day that I posted this, I had three different people contact me and say, 'Hey, what do I need to do to get my own discharge upgraded?'" Osterhoudt said. "I've got another friend of mine, and he's all but given up on the battle, and I told him, 'Dude, don't stop. Don't stop. When in (special forces) or when in the Ranger regiment did quitting become an option for any of us? It never was.'"
This piece of paper may be everything Osterhoudt fought for these last three years, but it's not honor. The honor was in the fighting.