GREENE COUNTY – While ham radio offers a social opportunity for some, it provides therapeutic relief for others. The Dayton VA grabbed this notion by the horns, opening an on-campus station, (W8DVA) in late 2016 to assist veterans living with PTSD.
Xenia “hammer” Jim Simpson (WB8QZZ) played a major role in getting the station up and running. Much of the operation was funded by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association, which is also sponsoring Hamvention.
“It’s intended to assist those with PTSD to focus and get their minds off the bad things that have happened in their life,” Simpson said. “Amateur radio is an extraordinary thing for focusing people and it’s enjoyable to be able to communicate around the world with hams.”
Station guests are greeted by postcards, or logs, of interactions hanging on the walls, in addition to a radio called a “Classic” that was used by military members contacting home during the Vietnam War and utilizes tubes in order to function. Dr. John Mathis (WA5FAC), a doctor in charge of radiology at the Dayton VA, said just the sight of the “vintage” equipment is yet another avenue of therapeutic relief.
“We have not just acute care veterans here, but veterans that are homeless, veterans that are retired, veterans that are in rehabilitation for all sorts of things … This is just another one of the things we provide to try to give them something to grab a hold of and pull themselves out of a hole,” Mathis said.
And it has since proven to be of service.
“PTSD is one of the things we certainly face, but even for our guys in wheelchairs, or in the retirement center or the rehabilitation center or homeless center — all of which are housed on the [Dayton VA] campus — they can wheel in here and talk to someone across the country or world just by pulling up here,” Mathis said. “Many times they’ll talk to people who don’t exactly have the same problems, but their own problems, so they can commiserate back and forth and it’s a nice way to have an opportunity to socialize outside of face-to-face.”
Simpson acquired his amateur radio license before he earned his high school diploma and has since allowed the airwaves to lead him into a number of employment opportunities, such as wedding photography, technological and safety equipment salesmanship and engineering.
“It’s opened many doors for me,” Simpson said. “It’s a multifaceted hobby that educates hams and allows us to become friends with people from all over the world on a routine basis and it benefits public safety.”
Mathis pointed out that when he became license to operate amateur radio airwaves, approximately 150,000 other individuals were licensed at that time in the United States. Since then, that number has grown — Mathis said approximately 750,000 individuals are now licensed hams. He credits amateur radio allowing the ability to communicate regardless of overwhelmed or downed cell phone towers in the case of an emergency situation.
“When disasters occur and when communications become problematic on normal channels, we fill in,” Simpson said. “Our obligation through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) obligates us to support community and we do that without hesitation.”
Simpson has been involved in DARA and Xenia Weather Amateur Radio Network for several years and has watched Hamvenetion, the world’s largest gathering of ham radio operators move from its home of 52 years, Hara Arena, to its new location at the Greene County Fairgrounds.
It took a committee of six individuals and 14 months of research before they made the final call.
And while Simpson was excited to learn of Hamvention’s new home when it was announced to the public last summer, he was not involved in making the final call on its new location. He said Hamvention officials examined both the Clark and Montgomery County Fairgrounds before ultimately deciding that the Greene County Fairgrounds would be suited venue for the event, crediting its updated infrastructure and facilities.
“It’s one of the hobbies, often and probably 75 percent or higher, is a hobby that’s a lifelong endeavor for us,” Simpson said.