Magazine article Addiction Professional

Our Hero, Twice

Magazine article Addiction Professional

Our Hero, Twice

Article excerpt

It's not often society can claim one hero twice for different reasons. Washington and the nation lost just such a hero when Col. Lewis Melvin Schulstad was laid to rest in Tahoma National Cemetery.

Col. Schulstad was 93. His passing garnered little attention beyond his intimate circle of family, friends and fellow veterans who gathered for his memorial service at American Legion Memorial Park in Everett (Wash.), even though his remarkable life impacted hundreds of thousands of people across the country and around the world.

He was a genuine war hero, a combat veteran of the air battles over Europe in the Second World War. His courage was matched only by his service to his country. We should all admire such men, who were young once and had so much to live for but sacrificed the halcyon days of their youth--and often their lives--for America and the freedom of other nations too.

Col. Schulstad flew 44 combat missions as the commanding pilot of a Boeing B-17, even though he could have gone "home" after 25 missions and the average survival rate of bomber crews was about five missions. In fact, his memorial service coincided with the 69' anniversary ( Jan. 23, 1943) of the day Col. Schulstad. missed work with a bad cold, He stayed behind in the base infirmary as his plane and a replacement pilot flew the mission over France and was shot down. Seven of the 10 men died.

How fickle is fate. How uneven is grace.

Col. Schulstad always marveled that he survived the war, and not just because the enemy was trying to kill him every day for a couple of years. It turns out another foe just as lethal as the Germans, but a bit more subtle, was stalking him too; alcohol.

For 20 more years after World War II alcohol waged war on Col. Schulstad until one day in 1965, when an incident involving top secret documents, a blackout and a hangover in a hotel near the Pentagon finally convinced him it was time to stop.

He recounted: "I called the Army chaplain and said, `I am here. I am a full colonel. I am very drunk, I am very sick, I've got lots of trouble and I need help." The chaplain hooked him up with a couple of men who were very different than him in so many ways, but were fundamentally like him in one very important way--they too were alcoholics who had found the answer to their problem and were willing to help him with his. "Be honest, be accountable: they told him. And he did.

Schulstad spent the rest of his life giving back to people just like him. …

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