HAZLETON (AP) - Retired SSG Erik Olson says just like "thousands of other soldiers," he is trying to put his life back together after being wounded in battle in the Middle East.
Olson, 45, of Conyngham, is a decorated three-tour combat veteran - two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He is the recipient of the Bronze Star with Valor and multiple Purple Hearts, among other commendations.
Olson has sustained six traumatic hits in combat from enemy fire and is an alumni of the Wounded Warrior Project, continuing to recover from his combat injuries.
And now Olson and many of his combat colleagues will be featured in a new outdoors show on Hazleton-based WYLN-TV. Olson will host the show that will include combat veterans from multiple conflicts, focusing on healing the often invisible wounds of war via fun outdoor activities
The show is called "Warrior Summit Outdoors - Courage Heals the Soul" - and will debut June 4 and will run 24 times throughout the month at days and times to be announced, said Tiffany Cloud, WYLN business director and Olson's wife.
The show will air all over WYLN TV's market in Northeastern Pennsylvania, reaching more than 200,000 households, Cloud said.
"I'm certainly proud of everything I did while serving in the military," Olson said. "I did my job just like 10,000 other men and women."
Olson said the first episode will consist of a self-introduction and a summary of what the show will be about each week.
"We hope to educate people about what soldiers go through when they return from battle," he said.
The first show will have a segment on skeet shooting at White Trail Preserve in Sugarloaf. The second will feature a nationally recognized friend of Olson's - an Iraq veteran who is a triple-amputee. They will go off-roading in the area and they will talk about what he's been through and his perseverance to get through his wounds.
"People will get to understand that the recent wars in the Middle East are different than past wars, beginning with Vietnam," Olson said. "Past wars always had a draft. Families always had a dog in the fight, so to speak. Everybody knew somebody serving in those wars. Not so much these days and these guys have gone to war time and time again."
Olson said Warrior Summit Outdoors will show the public of who these people are," Olson said. "We're not victims looking for pity; we're looking for opportunities for a new life. These soldiers, these men and women, are good people, proud Americans, who just need an opportunity."
Olson and Cloud have two daughters, ages 9 and 8.
Each month Olson, accompanied by his one-year-old Labrador Retriever "Sarge," will take other veterans out on various outdoor adventures of hunting, fishing, off-roading, etc.
Cloud said the program will address serious topics as related to veterans coping with life post-combat, but it will also demonstrate that veterans can heal, with the help of the community, organizations and activities in the great outdoors.
Cloud, president of Warrior Summit Outdoors LLC and co-executive producer of the show, said she wanted to bring this new show to the region in conjunction with her husband to help educate the community about ways activities can help warriors returned from combat, including those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an often misunderstood effect of war.
"In the news, there is too little coverage and understanding about PTSD," Cloud said. "We need education about it; the stigma must be quashed. Our returned veterans are brave warriors and often when they get home, they are not sure how to operate in the 'new normal' that is civilian life."