Each day, Mike Ogle sounds a rallying call for local veterans who find themselves disenfranchised, depressed or displaced.
A 24-year Air Force veteran, Ogle has worked at the Spokane Veterans Outreach Center – one of 300 of its kind in the country – since 2005. His duties involve outreach, counseling and resource referral – all with a goal of helping veterans find stability after returning from combat.
|Mike Ogle has worked at the Veterans Outreach Center in Spokane Valley since 2005. As part of a team of counselors and support staff, the 24-year Air Force veteran helps military personnel find their way back from the effects of combat.
Photo by: Craig Howard
“I take it very personal when people have problems,” Ogle said. “We talk about never leaving a soldier behind but we also don’t want ever to leave them alone.”
Ogle, whose official title is “readjustment counseling technician,” served extensively in the Middle East during a military tenure that spanned from 1980 to 2004. He has also served on every continent in the world other than Antarctica and was deployed for nearly eight years combined, earning recognition as one of the top dozen airmen in the U.S. in 1991.
When veterans stop by the Veterans Outreach Center on Mullan Road in Spokane Valley, Ogle lets them know they’ve found a kindred friend.
“Mike speaks their language,” said Dave Baird, a team leader at the Vet Center. “He has always been a very good listener who takes the time to understand that veteran. Every time he meets with someone, that person does not leave his office without a roadmap.”
Traveling in a custom-fitted RV called the Mobile Vet Center, Ogle spends time visits veterans in places like Ephrata, Sandpoint and Pullman, getting the word out about housing, medical care, employment and other benefits. After generating a constructive game plan with each veteran he sees, Ogle makes it a point to follow up. Over the years, he has compiled a trusted cadre of area resources, including groups like Wounded Warrior, Operation Yellow Ribbon, Work Source and the Spokane V.A. Hospital.
“You have to build a network around you,” he said. “I get a lot of credit but it’s really a team effort.”
Baird said Ogle is known for his energetic dedication to vets and reinforcing the mission of support among providers in the field.
“Not only is Mike really good at helping people, he reminds us why we do what we’re doing,” Baird said.
Originally from Colville, Ogle moved around with his family as a kid, eventually finding roots in Spokane and graduating from Rogers High School. His dad was a Vietnam veteran and flight engineer with the Air Force.
Ogle was working at the Fairchild Air Force base when he heard about the employment possibility at the local Vet Center.
“I remember saying it was just like another first sergeant’s job because you’re helping to take care of people,” he said.
Ogle said confidentiality in counseling is important to vets who may attach a stigma to the approach. In recent years, the military has worked to remove many of the negative stereotypes attached to therapy, educating soldiers and veterans on the effects of conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injury.
“The wound from the war experience is the same as any physical wound,” Ogle said. “Without therapy, you can’t heal that wound.”
The free counseling is also offered to families of combat vets.
Ogle has been a catalyst for a series of retreats that include activities like boating and fishing as well as meals and constructive dialogue. Working with Spokane Valley Fire Chief Mike Thompson, firefighter Darin Coldiron and other Valley Fire representatives, Ogle and Vet Center employees have helped organize the “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon” events for the past two summers with help from local businesses, churches and unions.
Thompson, a Vietnam vet himself, said Ogle’s contribution to the retreats and other resources for veterans has made a difference.
“As a veteran, I know how it feels to have someone on your side,” Thompson said. “Mike has been such a strong advocate for vets. The level of support he and the other people at the Vet Center provides is amazing.”
Want to find out more?
The Veterans Outreach Center is located at 100 N. Mullan Rd., Suite 102 in Spokane Valley and can be contacted at 444-8387. Further information can be found at www.va.gov or www.mentalhealth.va.gov. The VA Suicide Prevention hotline can be reached, toll-free, at 1-800-273-8255 – press “1” for veterans.