Never feel alone with the experience of “intense family dysfunction” – comments from a friend and fan of my book…

Dear Steve-

I have read your courageous memoir about growing up in an abusive household–and cringed and cheered, because I did as well–and planned to be at the book club today to hear you and Judy discuss it. Unfortunately, I have a 1:45 appointment in Newport, and have been told it will last much longer than I thought, so I will not be back here until sometime after 4pm–or later.

Anyway, I want you to know that I admire you greatly for writing as you did–being so honest and forthright about your painful family experiences! The good news is that you used them to grow and to heal. I think you are an inspiration for everybody who has struggled with intense family dysfunction–which I am beginning to think is many more of us than I ever thought!

Peace and health-


I felt alone on the subject of “intense family dysfunction” when first researching and writing my book.  In fact, I set out to write a letter to my family to better explain my behaviors over the years with the goal to apologize, and make peace with my past growing up in a post WWII toxic home.  I am a strong believer that making peace with the past is a way to make peace with the present.  And it works!  My life today at age 66 is happier than it has been for the better part of my entire life.  I am no longer angry with my father and family as a whole.  My work in spreading the word on PTSD awareness is healing and helping countless others every day through my book and blog.  Managing and mitigating the symptoms of PTSD and moral injury has become much less challenging with a high level of knowledge about the subject and how to go about finding appropriate treatment alternatives.  Living and coping with PTSD effectively has more to do with making a difference and helping others each day than being focused on my own condition. 

Each day is also a blessing to spend precious time with my wife and soul-mate Judy, now officially retired from her own career in early childhood education.  We are getting ready for an extended road trip to celebrate freedom together for the first time.  Once we are on our way discovering new places and experiencing the adventure that comes with travel, I will share our stories on the road in this blog with website references, photos, and comments of what we learn, including all the fun.  I want to invite all of you along with Judy and me on our trip at your convenience when you have a moment to check in with us on this website.  Sharing our travels and reading your comments along the way, will make our adventure all the more meaningful and joyful..

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Veterans Struggle Adjusting to Campus Life… Quote from this site…

“Members of the Oneida Nation returning from war undergo communal ceremonies to sooth their frayed bodies and minds. Tribal elders give the warriors new names to recognize a soul that has been completely transformed. For now, it would appear universities and colleges — communities in their own right — will remain the grounds of a silent return, the half-remembered beach of Odysseus’ nightmare.”;postID=1133065227090959671

If you want to learn more about “Odysseus’ nightmare” click on and buy the book.  In the meantime, the link just above my comments takes you to a previous posting regarding Sierra Community College near Sacramento, California that started a non-profit veterans group on campus to help veterans adjust to campus life.  As discussed in The Atlantic article link at the top of this page, “Lonely Men on Campus,” it is a big challenge for veterans to get back on campus following deployments.  The Sierra Community College model appears to offer a solution.  My nephew who is a US Navy veteran will enroll in Sierra this fall and plans to get involved.   I’ll stay on top of his experience with the campus veterans group to see what he thinks in terms of the value.  Veterans have a strong desire and incentive to return to school following deployment and should take advantage of the opportunity.  But the challenges of readjustment to civilian life does not exclude life on campus, which presents yet new problems for veterans as they return to life after war. 

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Sexual Dysfunction & PTSD? A Symptom of PTSD?? Quote from this site…

“Most studies on sexual dysfunction among veterans with PTSD have looked at Vietnam veterans. In those studies, rates of sexual dysfunction were as high as 80%. The high rates led some mental health professionals to suggest that decreased sexual desire should be considered as a symptom of PTSD.”

Finally!  We are now starting to talk about sexual dysfunction in relationship to the symptoms of PTSD.  I welcome this discussion, and know that most will.  It is true, from my own experience struggling with the symptoms of PTSD and in talking privately with others, that this is an issue that really makes matters worse.  Love and compassion are both critical to the journey of healing from moral injury.  The symptoms of PTSD can often create the conditions of “emotional numbing” and “dis-associative” behaviors and therefore take the romance out of life.  Not good news!  Sex can be stigmatized and avoided in our interactions with loved ones too.  But sex is an excellent and natural human need and desire.  A healthy sex life will make the journey of healing a little easier if we can talk about it and take steps to return romance and adventure to our daily lives.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Military Blogs – Health & Wellness

My blog is a resource for military families who have lived with the symptoms of PTSD and who are challenged with life after war. My book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, connects to the post WWII circumstances of my father who was a highly decorated US Navy combat veteran challenged for most of his life with a diagnosis of severe “Battle Fatigue.”
I am pleased to announce that the “Google Search Engine” places my blog and website on the first page when using the key words “Families Living With PTSD…  My site is also on the first page connected to, Mental & Physical Illness.  What does this mean?  Bragging rights, of course!  Most of all it means that my work on behalf of PTSD & moral injury awareness is making a difference.  While reviewing my own website stats page-views are on the rise as well.  It is fun to see advertisers interested in my blog and have the opportunity to participate in e-commerce.  Go to my site and check it out if you have not done so recently.  My plan is to continue improving the website to make it more robust and friendly.  Thanks to all my followers for joining the PTSD awareness conversation!
Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

The 25th Woman Soldier was killed in Afghanistan on August 24th. The Challenges Women Vets Face in Life After War…

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — The U.S. Army says a soldier based at Fort Campbell, Ky., has been killed in Afghanistan.
The Army says 20-year-old Pfc. Patricia L. Horne of Greenwood, Miss., died Aug. 24 in Bagram, Afghanistan. She was assigned to the 96th Aviation Support Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

                                    Rest in Peace….we will never forget you.

Read more here:
Pfc. Patricia L. Horne of Greenwood is the 25th women to be killed in action in AFGHANISTAN
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: I’ll go to my – do my grocery shopping at, you know, 2:00 in the morning because there’s nobody there.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Every backfiring car puts you back there.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Everybody else knew what was wrong with me or knew that something was wrong with me. I’m the only one that didn’t think so.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: If someone asked me how my military service was, I’d say it was great.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #5: I refused to admit that maybe I was lost.

My posting a few days ago discussed the minimal reporting of women who serve in combat.   It is the same for women as men, and if we look a second time we find that female soldiers get killed in battle too.    Patricia L. Horne, a 20-year-old Pfc. of Greenwood, Miss. is a more recent example.  Countless other women combat veterans return home to life after war with the same challenges of men, but may not be as visible nor heard from as much.  They often go unnoticed and definitely shy away from the spotlight even more so than men.  Women are challenged just as much as men while readjusting to civilian life following deployment.  Take a look at the above links on this posting to learn more about resources for the women who serve bravely and a new documentary, “Service: When Women Come Marching Home.”

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story


How the words of a spouse describe PTSD as an “unwelcome guest in our home.” Quote from this site…

“PTSD is our new four letter word. It has become an unwelcome guest in our home, in our
lives & in our family. PTSD is a battle that my spouse & I battle every minute of every
day. There are times that it feels as if IT has won, but that is a lie that I refuse to
believe. PTSD has forced us to adapt to the world in a way I never imagined possible.
For example, we cannot go into crowds. We cannot go to church, the movies or
restaurants without a “plan.” We have to make sure we know where the exits & entrances
are, we have to plan what to do if we get separated, and we never ever let our guard
down. PTSD
requires careful monitoring.

There is a fine line between true PTSD symptoms or triggers & simply using it as an
excuse for bad, bad, bad behavior. Which brings me to what PTSD is not…….it is not a
license to hurt or abuse others. There are tools out there to teach someone how to
handle the triggers of PTSD…..we are not going to be perfect in our endeavor to
overcome, but we will keep trying…

PTSD doesn’t look like a crazy person, waving a gun in the air & talking crazy. My spouse
is quiet, withdrawn & embarrassed by the stigma attached with PTSD……PTSD is your
neighbor, your friend….it is the person sitting next to you.”

K. Stalnaker, Spouse of a Veteran

It is often more meaningful to me because of my own famly experience to hear directly from a spouse or a child of a parent who suffers from PTSD in the circumstance of life after war. The words of Ms. Stalnaker above hit home with me and no doubt countless other loved ones and caregivers of PTSD sufferers.  I especially like her comments regarding “what PTSD is not…”  All too often the stigma of PTSD prevents us from becoming aware and educated so that we can be more compassionate toward those who are challenged.  The above new website offers comments by both veterans and loved ones on their experiences living and coping with PTSD.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story


Jack, Glady, Uncle Stevie & Jenny

Sharing this beautiful song passed along to me by Pastor Rich Sclafani, One Life Community Church, Seattle, Washington!/OneLifeCommunityChurch.   Rich, Jenny, and kids, Glady & Jack came to Depoe Bay, Oregon for a visit just last week.  I am very lucky to have married Jenny’s Aunt Judy almost 30 years ago, which gave me the gift of this wonderful extended family.  Rich is making a huge difference as co-pastor, One Life Community Church, a very special place of worship indeed…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

PGA’s “Birdies for the Brave” at TPC Sawgrass Nov30-Dec1… Quote from this site…

“Please join us at the Military Appreciation Gala and Pro-Am Charity Golf EventNovember 30 – December 1, 2012, at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  In addition to a world-class golf event featuring PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and LPGA players, this exciting weekend will feature a live auction and concert, with proceeds benefiting nine Birdies for the Brave homefront groups.”


I love golf!  And so pleased to share with my readers this event to honor and support our brave warriors.  Please let your friends & neighbors know about the Military Appreciation Gala and Pro-Am Charity Golf Event.  It is fantastic to see the PGA supporting our veterans returning home to life after war. 

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story  

Military Homefront Groups Supported
by Birdies for the Brave

Special Operations Warrior FoundationThe Special Operations Warrior Foundation provides full scholarship grants and educational and family counseling to the surviving children of special operations personnel lost in performance of operational or training missions. The Foundation also provides immediate financial assistance to severely wounded special operations personnel and their families.
Homes for Our TroopsHomes for Our Troops is strongly committed to helping those who have returned home with serious injuries since September 11, 2001. Homes for Our Troops assists severely-injured veterans by raising donations and coordinating the process of building a new specially adapted home that provides the ability to live more independently.
Navy Seal FoundationThe Navy SEAL Foundation was established to serve U.S. Navy SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen, Naval Special Warfare (NSW) support personnel, and their families. It offers critical support to Naval Special Warfare commands, active-duty personnel, their families, and veterans of NSW.  As the duration and frequency of training and operational deployments continue, and the stress on the families and operators grows, this important community requires support today more than ever.
Operation HomefrontOperation Homefront provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of our service members and wounded warriors. A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront leads more than 5,000 volunteers across a network of chapters and has met more than 590,000 needs since 2002. Operation Homefront uses 94 percent of all donations to directly fund its programs.
Wounded Warrior Project
The mission of Wounded Warrior Project™ (WWP) is to honor and empower wounded warriors. WWP exists to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service men and women; to help injured service men and women aid and assist each other; and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs.
Military Warriors Support FoundationFounded by Lieutenant General, Leroy Sisco, USA (Ret), in 2007, Military Warriors Support Foundation (MWSF) provides support for our nation’s combat-wounded heroes as they transition out of the military and into their new civilian lives. This is a very fragile time for these heroes and their families, and it is MWSF’s goal to provide programs that facilitate a smooth and successful transition. Programs include home donations, academic and employment assistance, and recreational activities that enable them to develop life skills that are essential to achieving success.
United Through ReadingThe mission of United Through Reading is to unite families facing physical separation by facilitating the bonding experience of reading aloud together.  At nearly 200 locations around the world, deployed military service members can be video-recorded reading storybooks to their children at home.
Green Beret FoundationThe Green Beret Foundation provides unconventional resources to facilitate the special needs of our wounded, ill and injured and imparts unique support to the Special Forces community in order to strengthen readiness and uphold Green Beret traditions and values.
K-9s For WarriorsK9s for Warriors is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing trained service canines to veterans suffering from post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury as a result of injuries received during conflicts post 9/

Learn About Secondary PTSD – How Family Members Become Traumatized by Living with Loved Ones with PTSD  Quote from this site…

The Many Faces of Secondary PTSD
“The signs, symptoms, and effects of Secondary PTSD are just as varied as the ones 
exhibited by Veterans with “primary” PTSD.
 It really is hard to explain, unless you’ve lived 
it.  However, I’m going to try!

Basically, when you’re living with a veteran who has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, you 
become his (or her) caretaker.  You slip into a role, without even noticing it, that has you 
constantly watching for people or circumstances that might “set him off.”  You’re trying to 
make sure everything stays in line – that nothing aggravates or upsets your vet – that 
everything is “perfect.”  Despite your best efforts, you’re still getting screamed at and 
berated by the person you’re trying to help on a much too frequent basis.”  

Secondary PTSD often takes a backseat because it develops from the close relationship of a caregiver of a person with “primary” PTSD.  After long exposure as a spouse or as a child of a parent with PTSD, secondary PTSD can kick-in and become a life-long challenge.  Family members are focused on the loved one who is readjusting to cilvilian life after war and rarely pay attention to how living in the environment or culture of PTSD will transfer like bad genes to others who live in the toxic culture connected with PTSD symptoms.  I can say from my own childhood experience with a father who suffered severe and complex PTSD that we siblings and our mother were traumatized for years.  It is my goal with this posting to make family members more aware of the implications of secondary PTSD.  Be vigilant early and start taking care of your own needs to stay on top of the risks of developing secondary PTSD as a caregiver.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

“When Women Come Marching Home” A new Facebook resource & documentary film to learn more about women veterans challenged in life after war…!/groups/servicewhenwomencomemarchinghome/

This inspiring documentary is about women warriors in their most fierce and intimate battle to overcome visible and invisible wounds … a must see!” Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, Deputy Director, WA State Dept of VA


I am delighted to include this new resource and links to Facebook and the documentary film ordering site.  In my view, not enough attention is given to the brave women who serve our country in highly dangerous support roles in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  My mission is awareness and education so that those who can help veterans, both the men and women who serve, know more about the invisible wounds and the challenges of life after war.  I hear from many veterans who often feel alone in the fight after war to get back to a happy, healthy, and productive civilian life.  I also hear from those at home who find that learning more about this subject is most helpful in understanding the emotional and physical challenges of veterans coming home from war.  Knowledge is empowering and makes a huge difference in doing your part in supporting our warriors when they “come marching home.”

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story