By MaryTherese GriffinOctober 30, 2019
Multilingual Soldier with heart condition still says he is the lucky one
By MaryTherese Griffin, U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition
ARLINGTON, Va., - Russian born Yuriy Ostrovskiy knew he wanted a better life for him and his family. He served 17 years between the Soviet Union and Ukraine Army as an Officer. Then one day he received a letter in the mail.
"Every year the United States has a lottery of 50, 000 green cards, so in 1999 I was a lucky one," said the now Sergeant in the United States Army. Ostrovskiy brought his wife and one child to New York City where he became a corrections officer. He enlisted in the New York Army National Guard and after a few years, gained his citizenship.
Now, after having served 17 years in the U.S. Army, Ostrovskiy is fighting atrial fibrillation, or A-Fib. There are roughly 200,000 new cases of A-Fib every year. Last year, Ostrovskiy became one of those cases.
The logistical specialist felt ill during a deployment to the Ukraine in 2017; he went into A -Fib at work.
"Everything in my body was shutting down so I [was medically evacuated] to Germany then on to [Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland] for four weeks," Ostrovskiy said.
Doctors eventually cleared him to return to his deployment, so back to the Ukraine he went. He had another A-Fib episode a few months later, but it was not as bad so he remained in country. On June 12, 2018, Ostrovskiy had another episode that required admission to a Ukrainian hospital.
"The doctors told me if I have another episode it will be last one," he says with a chuckle. In all seriousness, he knew something had to be done.
Ostrovskiy arrived at the Warrior Transition Battalion, Fort Drum, New York to work through his condition. "I'm really surprised how the system works. It is actually a perfect if you are not lazy and you know what you need, you just tell them and they will help you," says Ostrovskiy who took physical and occupational therapy very seriously.
On May 9, 2019, Ostrovskiy had ablation surgery to correct the A-Fib and has since learned he will not be able to return to duty. His doctors also advised him against returning to the strains of being a correctional officer. The father of four relied on the programs at the WTB even further to find his new normal in the workforce. Never did he ever think that being multilingual (he speaks several languages) would be in his future for employment.
"I didn't think about it until my deployment to the Ukraine where my hidden [linguist] talents were brought out," he said. His team at Fort Drum however paid close attention.
Michele Carlton, the WTB transition coordinator, knew Ostrovskiy spoke Ukrainian, Polish, Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, and Czech so she found a program to teach him how to teach others to speak these languages. "She helped me get an internship, so now I have a job opportunity.
Believe me, I thank Michele every day," said the now 48 year old.
"I think that Yuriy embodies the attitude that many foreign born American Soldiers exemplify that is they are grateful for what they have. He knew what he wanted to do and, I must admit, I did not think his chances were good without a college degree. I merely put forth what is available to them and they decide what's best for them. I am so glad he chose his internship and not to start a secondary education as his ultimate end goal was to be employed and it looks like he will. I am very proud of this Soldier," said Carlton.
A new job awaits Ostrovskiy in San Antonio, Texas as a civilian contractor teaching Soldiers how to speak Russian once he retires from active duty. "I don't just want to teach Soldiers how to speak Russian. I want them to understand how Russians think, how they live, their life style because it is completely different," he said. For Ostrovskiy and his family, life in San Antonio will be completely different, a new lease on life you might say. He has worked hard to recover and overcome and is very thankful for the support. Now, he is taking his family to a warmer climate along with beginning a new job. "And no more snow to shovel, I am still lucky," he says confidently.
Ostrovskiy says he had no support like this in foreign militaries and has this advice for future Soldiers who may have health issues. "Don't delay. Get to the WTU because opportunity awaits. There is only one chance in life to get everything you need for your future and the people at the WTU really help. They are going to show you everything you need to succeed. They give you opportunities."