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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Boy From Bothell .. Bipolar * Vietnam Veteran ..... Book Review



Book Review . Vietnam Veteran . Bipolar . Army . Navy . Saigon River . Investigation . ONI . The Office of Naval Intelligence . Lithium . Fight for Sanity . God . South Vietnam . Memoirs . Okinawa . Prodigal Son . Church . Marriage . Psychiatric Hospital . Seattle VA Hospital . Poland . Vancouver, Washington

I am high elated as well as honored to have received a complimentary copy of this book from Gene Olson, who is a Vietnam Veteran. Let us never forget our Veterans and Troops. Now my favorite branch is the Army for I use to stay on base I believe when i was a little girl in Texas (El Paso, Texas), and Florida (Homestead, Florida; Goulds, Florida; & Naranja, Florida) with my Daddy and Mother.

More than six million American adults suffer from bipolar disorder (manic depression) and or schizophrenia. These are two types of the most severe and crippling forms of mental illness.

What medicine do you give a paranoid schizophrenic? Thorazine. Between 1965 and 1980, state hospital mental patients went from 470,000 to a staggering 100,000.

What medicine do you give a paranoid schizophrenic on a VA psych ward? Liquid Thorazine.

Gene shares God miraculously healed his mind with lithium.

The year 1945 was one to remember. Flouridated water and frozen orange juice invaded American kitchens. And Tupperware gave housewives a reason to save leftovers.

John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert unveiled the electronic computer ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer). The birth of computers was ignited.

The greatest historical event in 1945 was the end of World War II and the beginning of the Nuclear Age. Germany formally surrendered on May 7th. After atomic bombs destroyed Hiroshima on August 6th and Nagaski on August 9th, Japan surrendered. And it was hard to understand and believe the film footage coming out of Eastern Europe - concentration camps run by Lucifer himself and his devils - cremation, experiments, sexual exploitations, starvation, gas and death.

As news spread "THE WAR IS OVER! celebration started from the East Coast to the West Coast.

October 12, 1945, 3:20 a.m., with a cry Gene entered the world at Doctors' Hospital as Gene Ellis Olson. The fourth child of a Norwegian mother and a Swedish father ... a mixed Viking, ready for the world.

Him and his sister, Pat, would spend the next twelve years together in the same grade. His birthday missed the eligibility date to start school.

Elementary school was a time of friendships developed and would continue to grow until high school graduation. Two of his best friends he met in elementary school were Rich and Joe. Rich was the son of an insurance executive at Bothell State Bank. Joe was the son of the Superintendent of Bothell School. Gene was proud to be the son of a meat cutter.

Rich Worthington was Gene's friend since second grade. Rich was a helicopter pilot, killed in action, South Vietnam 1970.

A picture in the Bothell Citizen brought Gene short fame as a fifth grader. Four were photographed with books in their hands and smiles on their faces.

One of his favorite places to visit as a child was Uncle Fred and Aunt Clara's house. Uncle Fred was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. He was a Korean War hero.

The book 22 Stayed documented twenty-two prisoners of war of the Korean Conflict: twenty-two soliders did not want to return to the United States, but wanted to stay in Noreth Korea. This book planted seeds for Gene's own writing tastes and styles.

After school and weekends there was plenty of free time to play.

Then they would divide into cowboys and Indians. It was hard to pick who was going to be "King of the Wild Frontier" or "the Lone Ranger."

Chris grew hay on several acres of their pasture.

Part of the fun work belonged to the little kids in the wagon.

Chris also had several acres of cherry trees.

When the cherries were ripe to pick, teenagers and even kids like Gene could earn spending money.

First stop would be to Meredith's Five & Ten. They always had great items and wasn't too expensive. Later in life he discovered that Washington State's Senator Patty Murray's father owned that store.



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The first crush in elementary school was with one of the twins in his class.

In 1957 (the year I was born), Gene was eleven years old, his parents decided to divide the property in half and build a new house.

A few months later he would be helping print "1957" in the fresh cement at their new house in Bothell.

As a toddler, the trips to his Grandma's house was exciting.

During his junior high school days, Grandma Olso moved in next door to Chris's rental house.

She came from Sweden and their great-great-grandmother from Sweden had lived to be ninety-five years old - and she smoked a pipe!

The dial on his Gramma's radio had places like "Tokyo, Moscow, Amsterdam," etc.

The seeds for his interest in writing were sown in junior high school. Not only could you write on the journalism staff you could also help "publish" and distribute the school newspaper, The Bobcat.

His family transferred to Kirkland Baptist Church of the Nazarene.

In his book, he talks about the Holy Ghost - Holy Spirit. Let me share a few Scriptures on the Holy Spirit & Being Born Again: Acts 2:1-4; John 14:16-17; Ephesians 1:13; Luke 24:36-40; John 3:1-8; and II Corinthians 5:17. (Now I realize that I am not all that - but - a work in progress.)

Oral Roberts was the famous "Pentecostalist" in the fifties.

Now we have seen televangelists Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart fall, and Bennie Hinn false accused.

If a person sincerely repent and confess God is faithful to forgive. But at times it can still be damaging to your ministry and career.

Not much has changed from radio, television and mass mailings. Ministers, televangelists, schemers ... some, not all, worship money and wealth as their God. It's sad.

The Scriptures also teaches us about false prophets and some of them wolves in sheep clothing. II Timothy Second Chapter tells us to study to show ourselves approved, where we can rightly divide the word of truth.

In his childhood, boyhood and youth church played a significant role in their family. They attended services on sunday morning and sunday night, and wednesday night prayer meeting.

As a teenager, one night going to bed, he brought a Look Magazine to read. The cover read, "Wanted: Priests, Rabbis & Ministers." He started reading about the future shortage of qualified men to lead in the Catholic Churches; the Jewish Synagogues and Protestant Churches.

After high school graduation he had no problems, no worries, life was carefree.

Northwest Nazarene College in Nampa, Idaho gave him a small activity scholarship.

Foodland was the only place to work. He like "bagging" groceries better than cleaning or sweeping floors.

He enrolled as a ministerial student: the conversation college forbade smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages as set forth in the manual of the Church of the Nazarene.

What money he did have went to beer. Usually in a broken stupor he would turn to his Bible and the Book of Psalms.

But the summer of joy of '65 would not linger. College dropouts were in demand. Something to do with Southeast Asia. Something to do about a place called South Vietnam.

Greetings from the President of the United States. You are hereby ordered to report for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States of America ....

Report date "October 12, 1965," his twentieth birthday! The escalation of the Vietnam War had caught him.

Ten days after signing his name and taking the oath, "I do," he found himself ready, but not so willing for ten weeks of Navy boot camp training. He had successfully dodged the Army, but not the Navy.

Seventy-two recruits of Company 529 living together in a naval barracks.

His mother sent a letter one day telling him of an upcoming major operation.

At this time in boot camp training calls were against regulations unless you had an emergency or "bona fide" reason. Certainly he knew he was eligible to call home.

He went through the usual of seeing the company commander.

After the pass was signed, he raced to the telephone booths.

Hearing his father's voice, he almost cried from excitement. His mother was fine and had arrived home from the hospital.

Boot Camp was a good teacher.

All during the flight home he did two things: relished in new freedom and prayed to God.

His mom was still recuperating from her operation when he walked into the room. She was thrilled to see him. He never wanted to leave home again .... NEVER!

Okinawa had a busy naval port to load supplies, support vehicles, machinery and troops up rivers and along the coast of South Vietnam.

Soon he was "bar hopping" and meeting sailors.

A sailor he didn't know walked back to the ship with him. Well, he knew he worked in the engine room. He couldn't see anything strange in his request that they go to the rear of the ship (funtail)n and talk.

He put his arm around Gene and held his wrist with his other hand.

The sailor made sexual advances toward him.

What could he do? He asked God to help him! He made a quick surprise move, escaping his strong grip.

Then he appeared, climbing down the ships ladder. Sitting across from Gene, he whispered only one sentence, "Better not tell anyone what I tried to do."

After drinking himself "silly," he walked into a bar and noticed a table full of chief petty officers from the ship.

They talked and he drank their free beer.

"Olson, I know you haven't been in the Navy very long. If there is anything bothering you about the Navy, feel free to talk with me about it."

After he told the chief petty officer about the incident, he asked "Will you say those exact words to the executive office?"

The next day he spoke to the X.O.

Instantly he could tell who the men were as they boarded the ship - civilian clothes, suits, both carrying briefcases. "The two men were agents from the Office of Naval Intelligence."

"First of all they informed him of his rights under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He didn't have to answer any questions if he felt it could be used against him in a court marital."

One agent left the room and returned with a Polaroid camera. They wanted a picture of the scratches on his face caused by him breaking away from the sailor. He had never noticed the scratches before.

The sight of a sailor made him sick, even though he was a sailor.

Loneliness and he guess doubt about what was happening would follow in the next few days dragged him into deep depression.

The days started growing worse. He felt he should see a psychiatrist before things became twisted up within his mind.

He noticed a magazine nearby called His and starting to reading an article on Psalm 13. He likened himself to a modern David.

The ONI agents had said they had given the other sailor a lie detector test. Every time he had lied, they had stopped and told him to come back when he was ready to tell the truth.

When they reported onboard ship, the officer of the day knew nothing of their circumstances.

"Olson, the agents told me not to touch you or I'd be in more trouble than I am in now. But he still let Gene know that he still had feelings for him, but would not force him."

Gene thinks he was sorry.

Within two days the ship headed back down the Saigon River.

Forty letters and fifteen hometown newspapers were stacked up waiting to be opened.

Three days later word was passed throughout the ship "We're heading home!" The only thing the crew could think about was seeing America and Americans once again.

Only one sentence filled his mind as the plane circled over Seattle and Puget sound, "I will sing unto the Lord, because He hath dealt bountifully with me."

He didn't know at the time, but his final cruise would sail from Okinawa, to Saigon, to Keelung, Formosa and Japan, and then to Pearl Harbor and San Diego.

Twelve of the children lined up outside the hut. He could not resist picking up the baby. When he kissed the baby on the forehead, the children laughed. The mother proudly held her baby up high for the camera. If he was running for a political office, he would have had everyone's vote.

With the GI Bill he could return to college and start fresh in the academic field. It was the fall of '67.

Being discharged from the Navy didn't discharge him from an alcoholic.

As a private Christian College, NNC was able to foster and promote religious principles and ideas of the Church of the Nazarene. Those were special times, sensing God's Spirit, sensing God's love, sensing God was personal.

Back in Washington State, his parents started two group homes for boys.

He agreed to work in the boys' home.

But one evening was the start of his first manic high.

Bipolar seeds were starting to sprout. Paranoia was growing at a rapid pace.

His dad told him, that he wanted him to come with him to go see a psychiatrist.

But his dad didn't know about Rich, the helicopter crash, his death in Vietnam and the details of the all-night drive.

The doctor's clinic was in downtown Seattle just south of the Westin Hotel near the Seattle center monorail tracks. He was recommended by his brother-in-law the doctor as a very qualified Christian psychiatrist.

Here he was twenty-six years old, ready for the journey from paranoid schizophrenic to manic depressive/bipolar.

Private hospitals are expensive. His brother found out he was eligible for psychiatric treatment at the VA Medical Center in Seattle. As a Vietnam Veteran he had priority over other Veterans except those with service-connected disabilities.

During the night a veteran had committed suicide; a lady had lost her silent husband.

He asked God to explain it. He said He didn't.

The Jewish kid who wondered like all of them, what were they doing there? His mother visited every night.

Another veteran had electric shock treatments. Shock treatments for depression - sometimes it worked.

Lithium had entered his life. It had only been approved by the FDA in 1970 and now, just six years later, he would be "put on" a relatively new drug for manic-depression, lithium.

He met a veteran his age. He had Huntington's disease, a disease of the nervous system. When his wife found out she left him. He had accepted his approaching death, but he could not accept his wife leaving him.

He died when he was at American Lake.

Towards the last months his concentration improved. He read four books. Man in Black, by Johnny Cash and Born Again, by Charles Colson.

He had finished reading Born Again when he heard on the TV news Charles Colson was coming to Tacoma. His prison ministry was taking him to explore McNeil Island Penitentiary.

Gene would be bipolar for the rest of his life.

"Grandpa" Christ was in a nursing home.

"He passed away."

Now before this happened he had to come to his senses like the Prodigal Son and return home he shares in his book. He also had married another woman for less than a year and she had an abortion.

If God had a girl picked out for Gene, where was she? He wasn't attending Church every Sunday, but he truly believed in a personal God.

There was one place he did not try, the Little Nickel dateline section int he free ad paper.

He must confess he prayed to God.

God sent only one.

Jolanta was 27 years old, 5'2," blond, Native Polish she wrote to him. She was Doctor of Medicine (inernist) graduated in Europe.

She was unique. She was loving and caring.

Not only could she speak seven languages fluently, but she was almost finished with her medical residency in Poland.

A few weeks passed and discussions on marriage entered the conversation.

"Should we just become engaged, or take the chance and get married?" He asked the immigration officer.

He was quick to respond, "He suggested that if you are really serious about it - get married.

After two weeks Jolanta said "Yes, I will marry you! But you have to stop drinking beer."

Their marriage took place at his parents' house in Bothell, at the small group home for boys.

They would return in later years with his wife's brother from Poland, his two young sons and their two young sons, which would be born via of C-sections.

Six months he had waited for this exact moment! She was still beautiful.

Now firsthand, he was learning about Polish culture, customs and behaviors.

It was a known fact with kids in the Polish neighborhood that all Americans were rich!

He later returned to Seattle without Jolanta.

The owner/manager of the mobile home park was leaving in several weeks for Israel and asked him to be the manager. He would agree for about a year.

He didn't have all the specific details, except his wife was having problems with the
American Embassy.

Now there was something he could do. He wrote a letter to Senator Dan Evans explaining his frustration and anger. He promptly replied back that he would look into the situation.

When his wife went to the American Embassy in Warsaw, she was treated like a diplomat.

One of the greatest moment in his life was getting a collect call from his wife at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. She had arrived in the United States!

His wife joined a small group of physicians in Vancouver, Washington. Southwest Washington was their new home.

Soon Dr. Jolanta Olson would become partner in a medical clinic and later also serve as chairman for the Department of Medicine at Southwest Washington Medical Center.

In February 2000, he received a letter from his high school sweetheart, Nancy, the dentist's daughter.

Nancy wrote:
Dear Gene, The question was asked "Who talked to you about the Gospel of Christ for the first time?" Her answer was Gene Olson. The next question was "Have you thanked them?" If not, "What are you going to do about it?"

She had continued to sing praises to Him throughout many lands - Singapore, Malaysia, Africa, Haiti, Canada and across the U.S. .... This - all because Gene told her how to know Jesus.

The lithium reduction started. He could feel mania approaching. Only a bipolar knows.

The 2004 presidential election had placed John Kerry in the spotlight of Vietnam Veterans. As he read some articles on John Kerry, the song Soirup River caught his eye. He had been on the same river a year after his ship was anchored as the "Mekong Hilton."

When John Kerry finished addressing the crowd, he asked Gene, Is there anything I can do for you?

He answered, "Yes, there is. I'd like a memorial for my friend Rich, a helicopter pilot killed in Vietnam."

A red, white and blue viewing stand was erected on top of the Seattle VA Medical Center, Beacon Hill.

The first helicopter had gathered on the hill and near the hospital for the memorial. They saluted the flag draped on its side.

In progression, each helicopter became newer.

For the finale, hundreds of Blackhawks and the most modern helicopters in formation at the viewing stand.

In meditation with God, he said, "All these years I never wanted to die! All these years he have been fighting for sanity!

God answered, "I know. I was there. I saw it all. It was a good fight. And you won!"

Oregon Senator Gordon Smith had a son with bipolar disorder who killed himself at his college apartment.

On July 8, 2004, the Garrett Le Memorial Act passed the Senate. The bill was introduced by Senator Gordon Smith who said, "It's been six months, and it's time to find more meaning and help others who suffered like he did."

The bill is for suicide prevention.

If Rich Worthington, his Christian Scientist boyhood friend killed in Vietnam, were alive today he know exactly what he would say.

"Gene, you don't need a Band-Aid for your brain. God will heal it."


Genes Olson, is the author of 'The Boy From Bothell - Bipolar *Vietnam Veteran lived most of his life in the Pacific Northwest. He has traveled extensively in Eastern Europe. He currently resides in Vancouver, Washington with his Polish wife, youngest son, older son out of the nest and three dogs.