This third book release is about Steve’s personal journey of healing. He writes as a survivor of childhood and early adult trauma growing up in a toxic military family torn apart by WWII and Korean War. Steve’s blog, Children and Families in Life after Trauma, provides rich content as an e-book. The narrative carries the reader on a story of inspiration, passion, and discovery of the roots of trauma-affected children and provides strategies for parents, teachers, and loved ones to help mitigate the suffering.
Steve’s story addresses the broader circumstances of children and families living with traumatic experiences, including military families, 1st responders, kids growing up with domestic violence, and in troubled neighborhoods affected by gangs, drugs, and severe crime. Sparks carves out a path of healing and peace of mind that has brought joy to his life and far better relationships with family and friends, including far less stressful and more rewarding professional experiences. The book truly shows an inspirational and motivational journey that has its roots in making a difference for others. Steve lives with his wife and soul mate Judy in Depoe Bay, Oregon. Judy has been a critical partner in supporting his work, including writing the Foreword for this latest release. Circe Olson Woessner, executive director, Museum of the American Military Family (MAMF) writes an excellent Prologue to show the impact of post-traumatic stress (PTS) on the military family as a whole. One complete chapter of Steve’s book is dedicated to MAMF.
Each of the 8 chapters in my new book, to be released soon, are page turners for all who want to learn more and make a difference for others who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress (PTS).
Chapter 2…Local Community, Partnerships, and Responsibility
Are we doing better caring for America’s veterans who return home to life after war? Are more government studies a solution? Are we engaging local communities effectively? This next chapter will help show the way forward right at home in the communities where veterans return to resume their lives in life after war…
“DOD and the Veterans Affairs Department are “collaborating to shape policies and programs with a long term impact on returning warriors, during military service and after transition to civilian life,” he added. He called for increased screening and referral of service members believed to be experiencing PTSD, and for improved access to quality care for those being treated.”
“Hammer told the task force members his organization benefits efforts throughout the Defense Department to help those suffering from PTSD and TBI. “We believe that by serving as the principal integrator and authority on psychological health and traumatic brain injury knowledge and standards for DOD,” he said, “we are uniquely positioned to accelerate improvement and care.”
We need much more at the local community level to support veterans returning home from deployment…
In my view, it is a continuous challenge for the Department of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs Department to strengthen the delivery of improved policies and programs for warriors returning home to life after war. Although we have appropriate policies and programs available and consistently updated, it is in the execution and delivery where we fail. I believe local communities collaborating with the private and public sectors as the ultimate solution. We need a public private partnership business model that works effectively in the local communities across America. Once our veterans our “processed” following leaving the service or returning home for a break from deployment, the “soul feeding” care needed on an on-going basis at the local level is lost in the shuffle. I still have not seen anything from the top that reaches out to local communities in a way that transfers the responsibility of caring for our warriors back to the communities that sent them into war and combat in the first place…
A “Call to Action” in local communities is critical! Public and private non-profit partnerships are critical to delivering solutions.
Chapter 7…Rediscovering and Preserving your Family’s War Legacy…excerpt…
“Lost WWII Heroes Discovered in South Pacific…a profoundly healing legacy experience for loved ones… This chapter explores how you can revisit and preserve your proud family legacy from past wars. So much of our war legacy is hidden in the boxes of attics and basements. We post WWII kids were taught to not ask questions or talk about it. Our parents, especially our fathers and mothers who served America during 20th Century wars, felt it was too painful to discuss. We worked hard as a post WWII society to “go home and forget about it!” Now we know that healing from the horrors and emotional pain of war requires conversation and revisiting the duty, sacrifice and service of veterans of all wars who protected the freedoms we all enjoy. We must preserve, honor and remember to help us all learn and heal from the trauma of war.”
“Passion meets technology in the search for downed aircraft in the South Pacific. The BentProp Project is a group of volunteers who search for and help repatriate missing World War II Airmen. Their searches were long and arduous until they enlisted the scientific know-how of Scripps Institution of Oceanography-UCSD and The University of Delaware. What they find is truly inspiring.”
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…
Daddy’s Boots…a moving poem for children of warriors…by CJ Heck… The poem is quoted…
by CJ Heck
Daddy left his boots for me
and here I have to stay.
My daddy is a soldier.
I’m in charge while he’s away.
In Daddy’s boots, I can pretend
that now I am the man
who does the things that Daddy does
as only Daddy can.
I help with little brother,
I help with folding clothes,
I help to take the trash out,
and I hope Daddy knows
that every day I wear his boots
so I’ll feel close to him
and I try to keep Mom happy,
till he comes home again.
I know that he’s protecting us,
that’s what soldiers do,
but his boots are way too big for me
and my job, being him, is too.
I wonder when he’s coming home.
I miss him ALL the time.
Mom said Dad is proud of me
and his boots fit me … just fine.
Dad, a US Navy WWII and Korean War combat veteran, was a stranger in our home for most of our lives as kids. My oldest brother really didn’t get to know his Dad until WWII ended, and that never turned out so well. For the rest of us born following WWII, it didn’t turn out well either. But we all had one thing in common, we loved Dad because he was our hero and America’s hero. Dad, like thousands of military men and women with families protected our freedoms so we could live our dreams and life challenges as well. We served too! I am proud to share my military family legacy and equally proud to preserve the memory my father’s selfless and brave service to America…
“Liz Snell wasn’t the type to step out ahead of her Marine. A good military wife, she believed, fell in line and worked quietly in the background. That’s why her volunteer resumé ran three pages long: She was a caseworker for families who needed financial advice. She coordinated job workshops for spouses who had to find new employment every time their warriors changed bases. She helped lead a volunteer program with the armed services branch of the Red Cross.
Liz’s medals were tokens of gratitude, small ways of recognizing that she served her country, too — reminders that America’s longest-running wars required military spouses to be strong and brave.”
The emotional pain of trauma survivors reaches outward and can affect the mental health of the children and families of warriors for a lifetime, including uncounted suicides of spouses, children, and loved ones. Military families are under great stress while soldiers and sailors are deployed for long periods of time. The same families become the care givers of our heroes when they come home…often for a lifetime. Family members who live with trauma survivors of war often become secondary victims of trauma, suffering from the same symptoms of PTSD and moral injury of combat veterans returning home.
My post WWII and Korean War US Navy family along with thousands of other military families were no exception. The difference during my time is that we were completely unaware of the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and panic attacks that created an angry and toxic family culture. Even though we learned about PTSD shortly after the end of the Vietnam War, and have since discovered appropriate alternative treatment strategies, America does not have the resources to help the affected military family as a whole. There is also a great deal of stigma attached to mental health treatment for fear of compromising employment opportunities.
Last May/June 2014, while visiting the American Military Family Museum, I spoke to an audience of mental health professionals at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque, NM. Following my talk about how families struggle as caregivers of warriors and often take on the same symptoms of PTSD, the clinical staff expressed a deep and emotional concern that they are unable to treat the whole family. I was told that they can barely treat the high numbers of combat veterans returning home and older veterans, let alone the whole family. In my view as a former military child growing up in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, that our lack of awareness and caregiving experience as a family, made matters at home exponentially worse. Living and growing up in an angry and toxic home culture is tragic. In the worst case scenario as in my case, our family was destroyed. Just as soon as we reached legal age, we escaped a home that was like living in a prison camp. We took all the anger and hate with us as adults.
In confronting my own demons from a toxic childhood, I researched, wrote, and published Reconciliation: A Son’s Story in November, 2011. My goal in revisiting the past was to first forgive myself so that forgiveness would fill my life with new found love and hope for the future. I found peace of mind. I wanted to help my own family heal as well.
My high level of awareness and continued writing and work with children and families in life after trauma gives me the fuel to maintain a sense of peace with the past, and hopefully help others find their own path of healing. The CNN reference article, The Uncounted, in my blog post today is one of the most revealing and powerful testimonials showing how war damages the hearts and souls of military families… The most critical outcome and benefit of sharing these stories of trauma survival is to help mitigate the stigma connected with mental health treatment for the family as a whole. Do not allow denial to keep the pain of trauma bottled up inside of you and your family. Encouraging early treatment with a sense of urgency to save the lives of trauma victims offers the most hope for long term recovery and healing.
“A 7-year-old girl who survived a plane crash and then trekked nearly a mile through dense woods to get help held out hope that her parents, sister and cousin might somehow have survived, too, police said.”
“I still I think about it a lot, particularly, of course, when there is an air crash,” she said. “But at other times as well. That experience follows me where ever I go.”
Many who survive such disasters – particularly sole survivors – suffer from what is known as “survivors’ guilt”.
One aspect of this is feeling somewhat unworthy of survival. Then there is the feeling of isolation, as there is no survivors’ network in which experiences can be shared and bonds formed.
Traumatic events in the lives of children, including accidents where others are killed, domestic violence or child abuse, are sometimes ignored because of an incorrect assumption that kids are resilient or will not remember. The traumatic time in my life as a child was the 1950’s during the period of my father’s post WWII and Korean War challenges of coping with his own trauma from the war, including the loss of close battle buddies. Our entire family was affected during a time when there was little or no awareness or treatment of PTSD symptoms and moral injury on children and families of warriors.
Trauma survivors feel a sense of guilt or unworthiness that can last a lifetime if not treated or confronted. Denial can take hold over time and become a huge barrier in finding an appropriate path of healing to achieve peace of mind. This was exactly the case with me until later in life following research and writing my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story. It is also true that young children can experience memory loss over time, making treatment and reconciliation even more challenging. I can’t remember my life experience or the traumatic events in our toxic home until around 9 or 10 years old. Fortunately, confronting my memories and the emotional baggage carried forward for decades from age 10 allowed me to begin healing from the pain that for so long was bottled up inside of me.
The big lesson for all parents or guardians when children are affected by traumatic life events such as the little girl, Sailor, who survived the plane crash in the story above, is to start treatment right away. Kids need to go back and retrace the events surrounding the tragedy so they can deal with the trauma effectively right away rather than waiting. The pain of bottled up tragic memories can often stick around forever. Even lost painful memories as a child are still tucked away in the back of our brain waiting to escape and be the catalyst of long term healing. It is the spiritual human connectedness and mindfulness of releasing the pain of trauma and tragedy from our hearts and minds that heals. Sharing with trauma survivors and bonding with others are good strategies to achieve a lasting peace of mind…
Operation Homefront… Click on this highlighted link to learn more how to help… Quote from this website…
“A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront leads more than 2,500 volunteers with nationwide presence who provide emergency and other financial assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. Operation Homefront has provided assistance to thousands of military families since its inception in 2002. Recognized for superior performance by leading independent charity watchdog groups, nationally, 93 percent of total donations to Operation Homefront go directly to programs that provide support to our military families.”
It was challenging growing up during mid 1940’s and 1950’s as a US Navy military child. My father was a Chief Boatswains Mate (BMC) training boots at both the US Naval Training Centers, in San Diego and Great Lakes. I remember the worst of it while we lived in Waukegan, Ill. Like many veterans of hard combat from WWII and Korean War, my father was challenged in making enough money for our family to survive. Dad also struggled with his own demons connected with experiencing so much death and destruction as a wartime veteran. We were a family torn apart by war and lived under toxic circumstances at home. It was scary so much of the time that I refer to this period in my young life as “the too terrible to remember 1950’s.”
Veterans of 21st Century wars and military families still have the same kind of challenges in post deployment life as we did following 20th Century wars, including WWII, Korean War, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. It is often tough for a military family to make ends meet. It is even harder for military spouses and children to learn how to cope with the caregiving duties of a father or mother who come home injured with physical and mental wounds that require a lifetime of treatment and tender loving care. It can be a lonely place in life for a military family, especially around the holiday season. The children can suffer the most from feeling scared and isolated in communities everywhere…
We can help by simply acknowledging and thanking veterans for their service, including the entire military family. Help get these families engaged in the community. Make sure they feel welcome, and give them an opportunity make a difference. You can also click on the Operation Homefront website and learn about specific needs of military families in your community and do more.
Please make an effort to reach out to military families during this holiday season, or for that matter anytime of the year. We need to care for our veterans in the same way they cared for us while deployed, fighting to protect the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. We have much to be thankful for, and owe so much to our veterans. Keep the children and families of warriors in your thoughts and prayers, and reach out and help a military family directly if there is an opportunity to do so…
Like psychological trauma, moral injury is a construct that describes extreme and unprecedented life experience including the harmful aftermath of exposure to such events. Events are considered morally injurious if they “transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations” (1). Thus, the key precondition for moral injury is an act of transgression, which shatters moral and ethical expectations that are rooted in religious or spiritual beliefs, or culture-based, organizational, and group-based rules about fairness, the value of life, and so forth.
“The context of spirituality is profoundly critical to a trauma victim…a case of right vs. wrong. Combat veterans are often morally injured or compromised while experiencing or engaged in hard combat. The post trauma symptoms of PTSD represent a normal reaction of the mind fighting against the horrors and inhuman circumstances of war…killing and carnage. Trauma victims can choose a path of healing by acknowledging the roots of moral injury with alternative treatment strategies sooner than later…awareness is the first step in healing. Denial of ones spiritual and moral reality as a human being will only keep the emotional pain bottled up inside revealing itself with the painful symptoms of PTSD…for a lifetime if not treated. The higher risk of denial is the adverse affect on the children and families of warriors…secondary and complex PTSD in loved ones living with a trauma victim or the case of intergenerational PTSD. The sad tragedy of the horrors of war on humans is how it damages the moral fabric of society for generations.”
Breakaway Patriot- “The Homecoming” Click highlighted text for video clip documentary…interviews with warriors…
Short Summary… Quoted from website…
“2 million men and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. When these men and women come home, they’re integrated into society with broken lenses. The average age of today’s veteran is 22 years young. Most of these men and women were fighting in a war before they were even allowed to drink a beer in their own country. Our video will feature actual veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. They will be displaying customized messages straight from their hearts throughout the video.”
The combat veteran’s homecoming can be highly painful, and mostly invisible to others. Veterans often suffer in silence. Warriors, including family members, do not always understand or are in denial of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS). Many veterans do not share their pain or admit to being diagnosed with PTSD for fear that the stigma of a mental health issue will keep them from getting a job or they are simply proud veterans and do not want to show weakness. As a US Navy veteran from the Vietnam era, I was diagnosed with a non-combat related mental health disability resulting from growing up in a toxic home as a post WWII military child. Children and families of warriors can suffer right along with a returning soldier struggling with readjustment and PTSD, and take on the same symptoms referred to as secondary PTSD or complex PTSD. The compounded symptomatic conditions of life after trauma on family members has created a epidemic of post war trauma sufferers and survivors in America and around the globe. It is critical for combat veterans and their loved loves to be aware on the consequences of not seeking treatment or being in denial.
Alternative treatment strategies such as mindfulness or meditation techniques vs. prescription drugs and alcohol, are proving to be highly effective when treatment becomes a way of life and a journey of healing. Healing from PTSD is often a work in progress that can last a lifetime… On-going treatment strategies for the family as a whole can be very beneficial and offer relief and peace of mind from the horrors of war and the post war trauma connected with PTSD as it affects the entire family.
The included music production and video documentary of veteran interviews is a way to offer trauma victims more awareness and encourages treatment sooner than later. Listen to the music and hear from selected warriors in the documentary to help you and your family find your own path of healing from the challenges in life after war and readjustment.