Local vet uses skydiving to spread message about veteran suicide

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Suicide rates are on the rise across the country, and for veterans, the statistics are even more alarming.

So, one local organization is hoping to try and change that - from the sky.

It's a problem facing the ones who give the most, and the beginning to a unique solution starting 10,000 feet above the ground.

“The suicide rate for veterans, especially Vietnam veterans, and some of the other wars we had is extremely high,” says Terry Larson, a Vietnam veteran himself.

Jim Osterman, creator of Veterans Skydive for Life compares the camaraderie of skydiving to serving.

“In the military you have the back of the man or the woman that's next to you, you're there to save their life, and they’re there to save your life,” says Osterman. “Skydiving is very similar.”

In 2016, Jim Osterman, a vet himself, started Veterans Skydive for Life not only to spread awareness of the alarming suicide rates, but also promote inclusion, in skydiving drop zones.

“I've had two of my veteran friends kill themselves, I kind of knew I had to do something,” says Osterman.

“The whole idea is to give them something to do other than commit suicide, let them know that there are people out there that care about them.”

After traveling the country by motorcycle, Osterman is back to his own stomping grounds Skydive Wissota, eager to share the sport with a local Vietnam veteran, Terry Larson.

“I was 101st airborne out of Fort Bend in Georgia and went to jump school there,” explains Larson. “Let's just say I hesitated at the door but the drill instructor had other ideas,” he jokes.

Larson is no stranger to the suicide problem.

“I have friends that don't even bother getting dressed every day, they don't have a purpose in life or a reason for life,” he says.

When the clouds finally rolled out Wednesday, Larson made the big jump to help show vets that there can be a purpose, not only found by jumping out of the plane, just simply being there.

“If it's just a friend, that’s all it take,” says Larson. “When you help people, you can never go wrong.”