OKLAHOMA CITY – Severe weather season in our state can be a tough time for many Oklahomans.
And it can be an especially difficult time for police officers, who are many times on the front lines of disaster areas.
The Oklahoma City police chaplain says this is a rough time of year, just coming off the anniversary of the bombing and going into severe weather season.
He’s helped several officers, including Cody Koelsch, who not only lost a cousin in the bombing, but also lost his home in last year’s May 20th tornado.
“I opened the door and I crawled out and I honest to God said you know the cellar got thrown somewhere. This is not my neighborhood,” said Koelsch.
Being a police officer, Koelsch immediately went into work mode.
“We searched some different houses and somebody came up and said hey we need some hammers, some tools to get. And I was like, well my garage is still standing. And that’s the first time I went down the street and actually looked at my house from the outside. I just lost it then. One of my supervisors was there and he’s like what’s wrong? And that’s my house or what’s left of it. He’s like, you don’t need to be here,” said Koelsch.
Several months went by before Koelsch realized he might need some help to work through everything he’d seen and endured.
“Little things would trigger it. Just I’d just have like a quick, cold sweat. One of the things was the smell of natural gas,” said Koelsch. “I said, you know, maybe I’m having some problems with this.”
Master Sergeant, Greg Giltner, is the OKC police chaplain.
He says they see a spike in calls from officers needing help around this time of year.
“This year, as this approaches, every time we see a thundercloud, every time there’s a lightning crack, I’ve had phone calls from officers, their kids,” said Msgt. Giltner. “As the chaplain, with my volunteers, we just try to avail ourselves to those officers and families. This time of year, things can get a little stressful.”
“Being that person, that we don’t ask for help. I guess it’s just our nature. We live to help others and we don’t know how to help ourselves,” said Koelsch.
But Koelsch says the counseling over the past year has helped.
That, coupled with the large storm shelter in his new home, is helping him to feel secure during this difficult time of year.
Giltner says they do some counseling at the police department.
But when officers need more long-term help of exhibit signs of post traumatic stress disorder, they refer them out to licensed counselors.