NEWS | Dec. 24, 2015

Home for the holidays

By Sgt. Elizabeth Barlow 318th Press Camp Headquarters

BERWYN, Ill.-Just in time for the holidays, one disabled service member and his family received a miracle of a lifetime today.

Through a partnership with the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) and the city of Berwyn, the Olijar family was handed the keys to a permanent new home.

Currently Scott and his wife, Jennifer, live in a one bedroom apartment in a small rural city in Illinois. They sleep in the living room so their 2-year-old son can sleep in the bedroom.

 With help from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and the Berwyn Holiday Fund, the donated condominium was fully furnished and ready to move in for a struggling veteran.

 “It’s too good to be true,” said Sgt. Scott Olijar, a Soldier with the 318th Press Camp Headquarters in Forest Park.  “I’m waiting for there to be a catch, but there isn’t one. Every once in a while you see someone on the news who seems to get lucky, and you never think that it could happen to you. But it did.” 

“I feel like Cinderella,” said Jennifer. “Everything I have ever dreamed of is being granted by a fairy godmother.”

In this case, the Olijar’s fairy godmother does not come with a magical wand or fairy dust, but comes as a thoughtful community and dozens of veteran programs.  After the condo was foreclosed upon and acquired by the city of Berwyn,  it was a matter of finding a veteran in need, and Scott was that veteran.

“Berwyn is a strong veteran community,” said Mayor Robert Lovero. “Ninety percent of the donations today came directly from our citizens, local businesses and private donations.”

Scott was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 where we worked as a psychological operations specialist attached to the 344th Psychological Operations Company from Austin, Texas.

Once he returned to the United States, he found he had come back with more than what he expected.

“The Wounded Warrior Transition program diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other mental illnesses right after deployment,” said Scott. “Since I was leaving active duty and returning to the Reserves, these problems sat and pestered me for the next five years.”

“If your husband isn’t willing to go, go get help for him,” said Jennifer. “Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness.”

As the issues started to affect Scott’s personal life, he eventually went to the Veteran Affairs (VA) hospital for help earlier this year.

“It is really hard to go get help,” said Scott. “We learn we are Soldiers and can handle everything. There are so many programs out there that can help you, though.”

Once Scott took the first step into recovering, a whole world of opportunities opened up for him and his family.

As they transition into city-life, the Olijars recognize the variety of career possibilities in their new neighborhood.

“It is an opportunity for a fresh start,” said Scott. “We want to reinforce our thank you to everyone who was involved. We had to just keep asking for help, and somewhere along the line someone came with an answer.”


For more information for veteran assistance, please contact your local VA hospital or visit www.militaryonesource.mil/.