Monday, October 5, 2009

Oregon Guardsman walks Portland Marathon with the man who saved his life (twice)

Oregon Army National Guard Maj. Dominic Oto (left), and Master Sgt. Jerry Glessman (right), participated in Sunday's Portland Marathon. The pair trained since July, using the opportunity to work through mental and well as physical challenges following a near-death experience in Iraq in 2008. Photo by Michael Lloyd, The Oregonian

Oregon Army National Guard member Maj. Dominic Oto is glad to be alive.

He owes his life to fellow soldier, Master Sgt. Jerry Glessman, who pulled him from a mangled Humvee following an IED attack on their convoy in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in Sept. 2008. The blast killed Oregon National Guard Capt. Bruno de Solenni. Read a blog post about the one-year anniversary of de Solenni's passing here.

"Jerry pulled me from the wreckage," Oto recalls. "He saved my life."

A week after the incident, Oto was back in the U.S., nursing two herniated discs and a dislocated shoulder. But, he admits, his mind was also a mess.

"I had a lot of guilt over Bruno passing," he said. "I really did feel in my heart of hearts that he was a better man than me."

Then Oto found an outlet.

Yesterday, Oto and the man who saved his life a year ago, walked the 26.2 mile Portland Marathon. He and Glessman wore their Army-issue uniforms, and 35-pound rucksacks.

"People look at us and ask, 'Are you crazy?'" Oto says with a laugh.

The pair started training in July. Oto, who works in Tigard and lives in Monmouth, and Glessman, who works in Salem but lives in Jefferson, were able to do more than just prepare for the marathon.

Oto and Glessman strengthened their minds while they trained their bodies. The pair talked through some of the hardships of surviving that fateful September day back in Iraq. Oto shared with his friend the guilt he carried over de Solenni's death.

"Jerry let me talk about how I feel and how I was doing. He let me work out a lot of stuff," Oto said.

"Jerry told me, 'That was his day. That wasn't your day. If Bruno could come back, he'd say live your life. I'll see you soon enough,'" he added.
So in a way, Glessman saved Oto's life twice.

The duo finished Sunday's marathon in 7 hours 43 minutes. This was the fifth marathon Oto participated in.

"I'm so glad to be alive," Oto says. "I never try to give away the gift that God gave me that day. I try to be a good man."

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Social Media Manager

(with special thanks to Kristi Turnquist of the Oregonian)

To read the entire article, please visit the Oregonian website, here.
And check out the great video interview with Oto, "Size 14 boots", put together by The Oregonian:

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