Combat veterans with PTSD stretching VA resources…

In my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, I write about my Dad, Vernon, who suffered dearly for many years as a result of 66 months of continuous combat duty during WWII.  Back then it was called “battle fatigue.”  Today’s wars show a comparison to extended duty in combat and how it increases the risk of depression among combat veterans according to a front page article in USA Today, included in the above link.  I write more about “extreme guilt” as one of the major symptoms causing combat veterans and the VA huge concern.  Troops who see buddies killed and carnage all around them are pushed out of the normal range of the human moral compass.  It is troubling and painful to live with the on-going thoughts of killing, death, and destruction for combat veterans. Treatment is critical because without help from appropriate medications and psychotherapy, the families of veterans are at risk, creating an inter-generational legacy of war as it did in the case of my family over a 70 year period.  When I think of my Dad’s suffering, it is sad.  It is especially sad to think about how this invisible wound, PTSD, impacts families for a lifetime.  In addition to my book, War and the Soul by Edward Tick, Phd., will help connect the dots with regard to how the soul flees these men and women who are exposed to extreme trauma in combat.

Steve Sparks

Anxiety can be good for you…,33009,2100106,00.html

In my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story, hyper vigilance or anxiety is discussed in some detail.  During my career and in most professional circumstances, anxiety has been a huge advantage unless the situation became far too stressful.  Some call it “facilitating anxiety” and in the case of performers it is the peak of positive anxiety that can push your mind and body to excel or compete more effectively.  Those that suffer from the symptoms of PTSD walk a fine line and risk a crash and burn outcome if the balance of stability is lost.

This week’s Time Magazine article put it all in perspective.  A very good short read for those interested in managing or learning more about the implications of anxiety and the symptoms of PTSD.

Steve Sparks

The “Me, I” Culture (re-posted from August 2011)

So far, this posting received the most attention of all postings since starting my blog in April 2011!  I was amazed at the response.  With Thanksgiving as a starting point this is the time of the year to think, and think more above giving rather than taking.  Now that my book has been published for a few weeks and getting great reviews, it is time for me to give thanks as well.

Steve Sparks

Following is an excerpt from my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story.

In a toxic family where PTSD symptoms persist as a result of prolonged abuse and trauma, there is no real family unit.  In this environment there is the perception that no one has your back.  You are basically alone protecting and defending your turf and position.  There is a high level of anxiety and insecurity that grows out of a motivation to survive rather than growing and thriving together as a team with common goals and parental leadership.

I learned something highly important very early in my professional life that was not translated to interactions with family members until many years later.  While learning and getting some good coaching in the sales business, the word “I” was considered poison in verbal and written communications.  My early career mentors and bosses jumped on me often for using the word “I” as a team member and in working with customers.  It was clear from the start that the word “we” carried so much more weight and generated significant positive response once it became a habit to avoid using “I” to reference almost anything.  When using “I” it was deliberate and most appropriate at all times.  My world changed very quickly in terms of leadership qualities and success in selling once “we” became my favorite word.

In all the years of fighting and arguing with family members and in trying to make my marriage work, including relationships with children, it has been a relatively recent discovery that “we” is most definitely appropriate in building strong relationships at the personal level, especially with family members.  It is most noted that when family members focus on themselves in solving problems, nothing constructive ever happens.  All my siblings, including parents, and myself have not been team players for most of our lives.  I hear the word “I” and “me” far too often, still to this day.  It is my sincere opinion that the sooner all of us make the family relationship bigger than ourselves, we will all be on the road to healing and recovery in a more expedient manner.  It is so much easier to communicate with people in general when “we” is in context at all times.  We are making good progress and in writing this story, it is beginning to become apparent that my brothers and sister think about the value of “we” more now than ever.  I definitely dislike hearing the use of “I” most of the time.  The reality is that for most things in life it is “we” who develop unconditional love together as a family unit.  Unconditional love is not possible in the context of “I.”

Dreams can be good therapy according to research.

I used to have nightmares and dreams more and some of them were pretty awful!  The information on this website is helpful to those who experience bad dreams from memories of traumatic experiences.

Obama signs veterans job bill!!

In September of 1965, following my honorable separation from the US Navy, I remember clearly sitting in the Redondo Beach, Ca offices of General Telephone & Telegraph (GTE) discussing my employment prospects with the HR manager at that time.  I was so excited!  He was telling me that my qualifications as a former Radioman E3 were excellent, including attending radio school at the US Naval Training Center in San Diego.  I was so ready to start my career!  Then he delivered the shock that floored me, “we are sorry Mr. Sparks, your DD214 shows a note that indicates you have a disability that is not acceptable to GTE.”  That disability at the time was not called PTSD, but the DD214 note was a mental disorder diagnosis by the US Navy.  I thought an honorable discharge was all that was necessary to go forward in civilian life and follow my career dreams and educational goals.  Thanks to the Western Union Telegraph Company, I did go back to work and the rest is history, and discussed in my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  I achieved my career dream to be a part of the booming telecommunications industry and eventually retired as a highly successful sales and marketing executive following 35 years in the business.  I was also able to start my college education and eventually earn a BA degree.

Times have changed for the better in helping veterans with disabilities, and I am so grateful and proud to still be around to see it happen.  No veteran who serves his/her country honorably whether in combat or in a support role while in the service should be turned away for a disability!  It was GTE’s loss and Western Union’s gain.  Thank you Western Union from the bottom of my heart!

Steve Sparks

Changing medications is no cake walk!

After hauling out all the hidden bones from my closet while writing and eventually publishing, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, and displaying them to the world in a cyber garage sale, I must admit that healing ain’t easy.  My psychotherapist friend warned me that dredging up all the past pain is the first step toward healing, but has a price.  “Writing is excellent therapy,” so said by many, and do not disagree.  The bad news is that once this is done, there is the next step of dealing with all the baggage that had been neatly contained in a box for a very long time.  Changing medications can be a good thing, but be prepared to go through the transition.  Don’t give up.  I’m on the fourth day of this journey to find a new medication that works best for PTSD.  I’m not a mental health professional, so will not cross the line and recommend anything ever.  This is not my job!  But it is appropriate to share my experiences during this time of healing.

The huge reminder for me in taking this step to a healthier and happier life, is that anyone who is suffering from the symptoms of PTSD, especially our dear heroes returning from combat duty, must have lots of love at home and the best mental health care available to achieve success.  You all got home safely, so take the next big step to a long and happy life with your loved ones.  As an added note for this post today, we are reminded that symptoms of PTSD can occur in non-combat cases of severe trauma, i.e., rape, accident, child abuse, etc.  Check out the article in Whole Life Magazine.

Steve Sparks

This beautiful prayer reminds us not to forget the fallen. Sent to me by Les Mathson, former Vietnam combat veteran.


The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

‘Step forward now, soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?’

The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
‘No, Lord, I guess I have not.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can’t always be a saint.

I’ve had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I’ve been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny,
That wasn’t mine to keep…
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills just got too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear…
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I’ve wept unmanly tears.

I know I don’t deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.

If you’ve a place for me here, Lord,
It needn’t be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don’t, I’ll understand.

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.

‘Step forward now, you soldier,
You’ve borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
You’ve done your time in Hell.’

Author Unknown~

Combat veterans returning home should get prepared for a healthy and happy transition.

Kyle Barthel Veterans and Service Members Mental Health Screening Act

In June 2009, United States Representative Harry Teague of New Mexico introduced H.R.2931 – Kyle Barthel Veterans and Service Members Mental Health Screening Act. This legislation seeks to require all members of the United States Armed Forces to receive confidential, in-person screening for mental health conditions by a licensed mental health professional before and after deployment as well as before discharge.[26]

Notice my new Wikipedia link.  I am impressed with the research and informational references provided by this excellent resource.

Steve Sparks

Suicide among combat veterans suffering from symptoms of PTSD is scary!

Does trauma or PTSD increase an individual’s suicide risk?

“A body of research indicates that there is a correlation between trauma and suicidal behaviors. There is evidence that traumatic events such as childhood abuse and other types of trauma may increase a person’s suicide risk (3,4,5,6,7,8). These studies have looked at whether a history of trauma exposure is linked to suicidal behaviors. Studies also suggest that suicide risk is higher in persons with PTSD. For example, research has found that trauma survivors with PTSD have a significantly higher risk of suicide than trauma survivors diagnosed with other psychiatric illness or with no mental pathology (9).”

I listened to a sad story yesterday that compelled me to learn more and share.  In talking privately to a medical professional in my local community I learned about a 23 year old combat veteran who returned from Iraq recently and committed suicide.  The scary part is that there were no visible signs of depression or anxiety.  Our heroes our proud.  They feel guilt as a survivor returning home and sometimes choose suicide rather than acting out or seeking treatment.  They think about their buddies who were killed.  They can’t get the empty combat boots and helmet that is tradition in honoring the fallen.  They are in extreme pain.  I also heard today that there are around 17 daily reports of combat veteran suicide attempts in the US.  The number, if accurate, is frightening to say the least.  What about the suicide attempts that go unreported per the above website reference?

I’m not going to stop talking and reporting about this critical matter.  We must become more aware as a public about PTSD.  Read my story, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story, to learn more about one family’s struggle over 7 decades of not talking or doing something.  My story is just a symbol of a huge problem in our country that has existed since the civil war.  We need to do more!

Steve Sparks

Read Time this week, “An Army a Part.”

“45,000 troops are coming home to a country that doesn’t know them.”  We must work hard to raise PTSD awareness right now!  A must read, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story by Steve Sparks, will help those concerned about the pain of PTSD on returning combat veterans and families.  You can help by understanding this mental disorder and how to help your loved ones.  A true story about a 70 year struggle of one family living and coping with PTSD.

Steve Sparks