From combat medicine to occupational therapy, Texas Woman’s University graduate Raymond Orr decided his next challenge would be missionary work in Ukraine.
Orr grew up in West Texas and is a retired military officer. During his time in the military, he was injured and had been a patient of physical therapy for several years. His time in physical therapy inspired him to go into the physical therapy field and help others, he said.
“I am retired military, I did lots of things in the military active guard reserve for 22 years but I did combat medic first,” Orr said. “I was injured in the military so I went to therapy in Germany and Dallas. I thought ‘I want to be a therapist,’ so I decided to go to therapy school.”
Orr received his Master of Occupational Therapy from TWU in 1999 and his doctorate in epidemiology in 2022.
While being involved in church, Orr met with several missionaries and learned about their stories and work. He said he wanted to find ways to help and, while initially doubting himself, he ultimately found that his skills could be essential in the areas where missions were taking place.
“In 2014 and 2016, I went over and visited some Christian missionaries with our church and I thought ‘I wish I could help in some way,’” Orr said. “I didn’t really know how and then I thought ‘wait a minute, I am a therapist and combat medic, I can do this.’ I started looking around and I went to North Africa and places in South America like Honduras and Guatemala.”
Orr explained that, while his role on these missions is to be an occupational therapist, he does many different tasks from wound care to simply being support to the people most in need in these countries.
“I am doing occupational therapy but I am also doing wound care, trauma, polytrauma and combat medic stuff,” Orr said. “Honestly, a lot of it is letting them know that they are not forgotten and that they are not alone. Telling them that the world does care about what is going on.”
In 2020, Orr met missionaries in Honduras who had done mission work in Ukraine and he learned about their work and the extensive war going on. Orr said this inspired him to want to serve in Ukraine and he has since done five missionary trips.
Orr is working under an Israeli non-profit, FRIDA. According to their Instagram, FRIDA is a group of medical volunteers offering free consultations in Ukraine and Israel. AP News reports that the volunteers provide help through mobile clinics along the frontlines and areas taken over by Russian troops. FRIDA volunteers see from a dozen to 250 patients a day.
“When you’re in the military, you go around the world from South America to Iraq and you don’t get immune to it but you get used to it,” Orr said. “When I was injured in the military, I had seven surgeries and I actually died on the operating table, so I am not really afraid of death. I am more afraid of being insignificant in this life, I have a lot to give and I don’t want to live a mundane life. If I can give, then I should do it right.”
Orr said the hardest part of his work is leaving the women and children that are suffering. He urges people to spread awareness and be informed of how the war in Ukraine is affecting the Ukrainian people.
“When I am on I-35 trying to get to Denton or someone gets an order wrong at a restaurant, I get frustrated with my very easy life in North Texas, then I come here and get centered,” Orr said. “I think people would get a new perspective if they volunteered like this or in any type of way. It is a huge eye-opener and puts things in perspective.”
Featured Illustration by Stephanie Vo
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