Ever seen the movie “Black Hawk Down?” It’s an Oscar-winning 2001 war film based on a 1999 book by journalist Mark Bowden.
That book, which shares the same title, details a military raid known as the Battle of Mogadishu. The harrowing struggle involved our own U.S. troops, and resulted in one of the most intense urban combat scenarios to date.
Norm Hooten was a U.S. Army Master Sergeant on that fateful October morning in 1993. He was also a Delta Force team leader, flying into Mogadishu, Somalia, to capture members serving a regional warlord.
The core mission was successful. But as Hooten’s team was preparing to depart, enemy fire struck an American UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
As both the book and movie titles suggest, the Black Hawk proceeded to plummet out of the sky. For the next 18 hours, Hooten and his squadron battled their way to the crash site in a determined attempt to recover the deceased.
But as Hooten recently explained according to Fox affiliate WTVC, others were doing likewise. And this desperate race made for an incredibly tense and tenuous situation.
“Every other hostile militiaman in that city was doing the same thing,” Hooten said. “We were going to go in and recover every person that went in, if it took us forever to do so.”
When all was said and done, 18 dedicated Americans lost their lives. Additionally, more than half of Hooten’s team sustained injuries.
One of Hooten’s soldiers went on to survive the struggle. But 20 years later, that same man wound up losing a different yet related battle.
Hooten’s teammate and close comrade eventually succumbed to opioid addiction. And in the process, he forever changed the course of Hooten’s own life.
“It was a different feeling losing a dear friend to a drug overdose than one in combat,” Hooten said.
The tragedy inspired Hooten to go back to school, where he ultimately earned his doctorate of pharmacy at the age of 55. Today, he works to save addicted veterans as a clinical pharmacist with the Orlando VA.
According to RehabSpot and Beach House Center for Recovery, addiction struggles involving veterans and opioids are definitely on the rise. And in some cases, they’re even more deadly than active combat.
PEW Charitable Trusts estimates that roughly 68,000 veterans battled opioid use disorder in 2015. This represents a worrisome three-fold increase over just 12 years.
PEW explains that chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder are extremely common among soldiers who have experienced active combat. Both of these issues are associated with higher rates of opioid prescribing, and some individuals begin depending on their medication to function.
“I used to think of it as a choice,” Hooten said. “But it’s really not a choice. It’s truly a disease.”
So Hooten has chosen to stand on the front lines, fighting to preserve as many veteran’s lives as possible. “Obviously I’m not gonna save all of them,” he humbly admitted. “But if I can save one or two of them, then it’s worth everything I’ve done up to this point.”
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