“A greater sense of being” must be rediscovered and renewed among those who suffer from traumatic events in life, including war. The children and families who become exposed to the painful symptoms of PTSD when war weary soldiers and sailors come home, become affected caregivers too. Life after trauma can become a vicious cycle of emotional pain and baggage that often carries forward to the next generation of family members and loved ones…
I was very fortunate in 2011 to have been inspired to research and write my own family’s post WWII story of living with the toxic circumstances of life after war. My story certainly shows severe emotional pain, including domestic violence, but also demonstrates the resilience of an American military family to survive and thrive without understanding the roots of our troubled existence. Our family, like thousands of military families of that time and in the 21st Century, was torn apart by war. But we all took the high road and thrived, even with mental health challenges that were mostly confronted and mitigated along a lifetime journey of healing. We succeeded in breaking the cycle of pain so that future generations could more freely make informed choices to seek alternative treatments to heal in life after trauma.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute to the campaign of awareness through my books, blog, and in public speaking. Discovering a greater sense of being in my life is a gift of mindfulness and a soul at peace. Without knowing the roots of ones traumatic past, the pain of bottled up horrific memories can be haunting for a lifetime. My favorite quote by Maya Angelou…”There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you…”
Kyle washonorably dischargedfrom the U.S. Navy in 2009 and wrote a bestselling autobiography,American Sniper, which was published in January 2012. On February 2, 2013, Kyle was shot and killed at a shooting range nearChalk Mountain, Texas, along with friend Chad Littlefield. The man accused of killing them is awaiting trial for murder. Afilm adaptationof Kyle’s autobiography, directed byClint Eastwood, was released in December 2014.
It has taken me days to think about my reaction to the movie, American Sniper. It was an honor but chilling experience watching the movie. The story affected me most as a post WWII and Korean War military child living with a parent who suffered terribly from the trauma of extended deployments in hard combat. I thought mostly of the tens of thousands of military children and families of all wars, past and present, who endured the emotional challenges of war at home during and after the wars of their generations. I think about my mom, now age 96, who waited all of WWII for Dad to return not knowing where he was or whether he would even return to know his first son born 3 months before Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
I feel thankful that Americans are highly aware of the painful symptoms of PTSD and the lifelong and intergenerational affect of this epidemic on the children and families of warriors. When the movie ended there was complete silence in the theater while we watched the memorial service for Chris Kyle at Cowboy Stadium. I feel so encouraged that the stigma of mental illness and PTSD will become a thing of the past. I believe America will be much further ahead in caring for the sailors and soldiers, including the whole family, when they return home from fighting the wars that protect the freedoms of all Americans. When early treatment for PTSD is encouraged and supported, trauma survivors can embark on the journey of healing.
My only regret is that as a post WWII family we had no awareness or appreciation of how the trauma of war affected Dad and our family as a whole. We ended up as one of thousands of families who were torn apart by war, and carried the emotional baggage forward in life for more than one generation. If we had the awareness of 21st Century medical science following WWII, my family’s toxic past and emotional pain may have been avoided or at least mitigated. We are also lucky in this day and age for the media technology and access that provides a profound sense of awareness, including the motion picture American Sniper. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of the PTSD awareness campaign by publishing my own book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story… I feel even more thankful and proud to now know the roots of my family’s struggles following WWII, allowing me to honor my father’s memory and US Navy legacy. It is in this spirit that we can never forget the sacrifice of veterans of all wars and the families who served too…
“Eastwood, Hall and especially Cooper walk the line between Kyle’s valor and his torment. The movie is strongest when Kyle is home, as his wife, Taya (Sienna Miller, also strong), wonders whether the man who was her husband might re-enter the land of the living. Cooper turns Kyle’s emotional vacancy into a vivid presence. He wears it in the hollow eyes, and the clenched jaw, and the monosyllabic shutdown when anyone expresses concern.”
Since the publication of my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, in November 2011, I have had fair success in educating the adult children and families of warriors on the emotional pain of PTSD and its intergenerational impact. Now, the motion picture, American Sniper, the story of Chris Kyle, is generating more awareness, interest, and conversation than any past book, movie, documentary or story. I say bravo! The stigma of mental health challenges, including moral injury and the symptoms of PTSD, is a global epidemic that often sticks with a family for generations with little or no treatment.
The worst of PTSD is the direct exposure to loss of life and in the act of killing another human being. Worse yet is how PTSD affects the children and families of warriors for a lifetime. The emotional pain of PTSD is considered a moral injury or a complete breakdown of spirituality…right vs. wrong in our human nature. If we are in denial or disguise the emotional turmoil and don’t try to seek alternative treatments available, the worst case outcome can be suicide…loss of hope and desire to live. Loved ones, children, and families who live with a parent or friend suffering from severe symptoms of PTSD often take on the same symptoms that carry forward like bad genes unless treated again…often a lifetime work in progress.
We can break the cycle of pain caused by moral injury and PTSD with honest conversation and treatment. Revisiting the pain of the past either as a warrior or as a trauma victim in general has a way of releasing the stress that haunts a person’s mind and body. The 24/7 pain of PTSD is taking a toll on thousands of combat veterans and millions of Americans who experience traumatic events from domestic violence, child abuse, and maltreatment. Seeing this movie and starting a conversation with friends and family will be the beginning of your own journey of healing…