Celebrating Fathers’ Day with Forgiveness, Pride, and Honor…

Dear family and friends,

 My 66th birthday arrives soon, July 6th.  I celebrated Fathers Day without anger for the first time last year following the publication of my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Researching and writing my family story gave me an insight to life after war that never existed prior to age 64.  Living with anger toward my Dad, Vernon, so much of my life was painful.  It was even more painful after leaving home at 17, becoming an adult with my own challenges, and living in denial about our toxic home life as a family.  Once denial sets in the anger persists, but it never leaves your soul.  For so many years I asked myself, why does anger persist along with anxiety even when completely separated from the toxic childhood culture at home?  Now I know!  Knowing is healing!  But healing from traumatic experiences is a lifetime challenge. 

On this Fathers Day, I can honor my Dad with love and forgiveness.  I can also honor with pride Dad’s WWII service to his country.  You see Dad didn’t know why he was angry either for most of his life following the end of WWII in the summer of 1945.  During that time thousands of veterans returned  home from the battle field, and thousands never returned.  Those that did return were told, “get lots of rest, go home to your family, and forget about it.”  As it turned out, forgetting was not possible, but denial was.  With denial the soul baggage from months and years in combat during WWII seeing your buddies die or injured, and observing the horror of extended and continuous combat during the entire time of WWII, stays for good unless it is revealed and accepted.  Unlike today with all the awareness and attention surrounding PTSD, WWII veterans and their loved ones had none of it.  That’s right, no awareness whatsoever!  It was a homecoming without “soul feeding.”  It was life after war suffering from the symptoms of PTSD and moral injury, and not even knowing why.  “Not knowing” is very painful.  The medication of choice, and the only medication for our heroes from WWII was alcohol for the most part.  We all know without any review that alcohol provides short term relief of pain, but has dangerous side effects and consequences to the individuals seeking relief, including family members, loved ones, and friends.  The legacy of all wars lingers on today, and will until there are no more wars to fight.  But we can mitigate the challenges of life after war and the effects of moral injury by becoming highly aware as citizens and caregivers of veterans returning home to serious challenges of readjustment and reintegration back in civilian life.  All of us play an important role in helping our heroes live a healthy, happy, and productive life after war.

I feel blessed to celebrate Fathers Day for the second year in a row without anger toward my Dad, Vernon H. Sparks.   I can freely honor Dad’s US Navy WWII service protecting the freedoms of all Americans with pride.   More importantly, I am proud to share our family story with countless others through my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Researching and writing the book was an amazing journey of healing and forgiveness.  And so far, those who read my book and this blog seem to gain the same insight to the challenges of combat veterans in life after war.  Healing begins with awareness.

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story