The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Psychology professor, Army Reserve major helps Veterans Court deliver best sentences, treatments by taking into account effects of combat on veterans

By Karen Gavis/se news editor

When they first met in Germany, the soldier was in critical condition. He had a severe brain injury because of a gunshot wound. No one expected him to live.

Dr. Charles Overstreet, a South Campus psychology professor, recognized the soldier’s chart when he came strolling into the Tarrant County Veterans Court with his father a few weeks ago and was surprised that he had survived.

“He was actually doing well,” he said. ”He was in remarkable shape.”

The soldier had been in the U.S. Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where Overstreet was stationed at the time. Overstreet said those with his type of injury almost never survive. The soldier had been evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

“He came trucking in three weeks ago,” he said. “When he was in the hospital, he was all jacked up.”

Because of the soldier’s medical condition, his ability to control his emotions was decreased. This resulted in a domestic case because he had frightened someone. 

Overstreet said cases such as his are why the Veterans Court Diversion Program was created.

Overstreet is a Medical Service Corps major in the Army Reserves. He has worked at TCC for 17 years, but he has been deployed into combat three times.

“Mainly, I teach,” he said.

A consultant for Tarrant County Criminal Court No. 9, Overstreet worked with Judge Brent Carr in the development of the program, which was established in 2010.

”I designed an assessment for the court,” he said. “The Diversion Program is set up to make sure that combat veterans are not being incarcerated due to adjustment problems from being deployed.”

Veterans Court program manager Courtney Young said Overstreet makes clinical recommendations for the best course of treatment for veterans and educates them as well as the court staff about different treatment options.

“It is my opinion that Dr. Overstreet enjoys evaluating our veterans,” he said. ”He agrees to evaluate them in jail, and although all veterans are not found appropriate for the program, he still makes recommendations in the best interest of the veteran.”

South Campus sociology instructor Maureen Hockenberger said as a teacher and highly trained psychologist, Overstreet can teach others the path to successful transition.

“Dr. Overstreet’s ability to empathize with the veteran experience, based upon his own deployment experiences, serves to validate him as a mental health provider,” she said.

Overstreet has done more than 70 assessments for the court, nearly canceling his private practice to do so, he said.

Most of the court cases are DWI and domestic violence, Overstreet said.

The veterans are assigned court counselors, and if they need any type of services, Overstreet connects them with the proper service.

“There is some problem-solving involved,” he said.

Overstreet said returning home is a big adjustment because when soldiers are deployed, everything is structured. They do the same thing and wear the same clothes every day, but when they come home there are a million things going on.

Overstreet is over 6 feet tall and speaks calmly. When veterans realize he is someone who has been on common ground, they lighten up.

“It makes it easier for them,” he said.

Overstreet said he was recruited into the Army Reserves in 1999.

They needed mental health professionals, and he was assigned to the 94th Combat Support Unit in Seagoville, Texas.

“On Sept. 11, we were put on high alert,” he said. “We had to be ready to leave within 24 hours.”

In 2003, he deployed to the U.S. Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, as medical support for Operation Iraqi Freedom doing mental health assessments for wounded soldiers evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I wasn’t totally green. But I was green to combat,” he said.

One of the soldiers he saw in Germany “had been blown to bits” and required 18 hours of surgery, which resulted in both legs being amputated, Overstreet said.

Later, he saw him on CNN doing a documentary for prosthetic devices.

“These guys are tough,” he said.

In March 2005, he deployed to Iraq as officer-in-charge of the 1972nd Medical Detachment, Combat Stress Control, Fort Lewis, Seattle, Wash., as officer-in-charge.

Overstreet said they convoyed nine hours along the most dangerous stretch of road in the world and ended up about 20 kilometers south of Baghdad.

“That was right at the base of the Sunni Triangle,” he said. “It was a pretty action-packed area.”

While they were there, they would take toys and candy to the children in orphanages whose parents had been killed in the war, he said.

Most casualties of war are civilians.

Overstreet worked out of a “combat stress control shack.”

“I’d say we got shelled almost daily,” he said. “There were nights you could stand and watch convoys get blown up off the road,” he said.

In 2008, he deployed to Camp Taji just north of Baghdad with the 1835th Medical Detachment. There were many suicides.

Overstreet said the military personnel he assessed were stressed, mainly because they had been out for so long. Some were on their second deployment.

“It was the same kind of stuff you would see in any combat area,” he said. “Some days would be pretty bad.”

Overstreet said survival rates today are higher than 20 years ago, but more people come home wounded.

“That creates this whole secondary need,” he said.

Areas of psycho, physical and occupational therapies are behind and understaffed.

When soldiers return home from deployment, they are treated well, Overstreet said.

“People are constantly coming up to you and paying your tab,” he said. “Just the comments people make makes it seem kind of worth it.”

Overstreet said he was glad he got to deploy and looking back, he would not have done anything differently.

“I wouldn’t have passed it up,” he said.

South Campus professor Brian Johnson has worked with Overstreet for 17 years. He said Overstreet is one of the smartest and busiest people in their department, and he does not know how he does all that he does.

“He also finds time to exercise like a maniac,” he said. “He makes us all tired just looking at him.”

Overstreet said staying active helps him not to think about the negative aspects of war.

He will retire from the military soon and said he is thankful for all of his military friends and experiences. But he has done what he intended to do in the military and is involved in college teaching, private practice and issues with veterans, Overstreet said.

Having spent much of his life in the military, Overstreet said Veterans Day is “when I remember the soldiers I knew that didn’t come home and admire those that did.”

 

 

 

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