Most older veterans live with the pain of war for their entire lives… The stigma and lack of treatment for PTSD created denial and often self medication treatments…

by | Mar 21, 2013

Albert Perna, a World War II veteran, speaking at a Congressional event in 2004

Is there an end to trauma for older veterans?  Quote from this site…

Who knew much about post-traumatic stress syndrome in 1945? The term didn’t enter the official manual of psychiatric diagnoses until 1980; effective treatments didn’t become widely available until the late 1990s.

So when Cpl. Albert Perna returned from World War II, “They said: ‘You’re discharged. Go home and go to work,’ ” he recalled. “Nobody told us anything.”

The prevailing medical advice — even for someone like Mr. Perna, who had fought in North Africa, Italy and France, who had been wounded and spent six months in a German P.O.W. camp — amounted to “put it all behind you.  “The John Wayne approach,” said Joan Cook, a Yale psychiatry professor and researcher with the National Center for PTSD. “Older vets believed in that. For many years, they hid their symptoms.”

My father, Vernon, suffered severely from the symptoms of PTSD for is entire life following WWII and Korean War.  Like Albert Perena and countless others who experienced extended deployment and combat during WWII, they were told to “go home and forget about it.”  We now know how painful it was for these warriors of that time who never forgot for a second seeing battle buddies killed, the carnage of the dead on the battle field and at sea, and the killing of innocent citizens.  “Forget about it,” not a chance…  Often they were overcome by alcohol as a form of self medication and destroyed their families with angry behaviors and physical abuse.  Many were able to have successful careers that channeled their anger and hyper vigilance in constructive ways.  But the anger continued at home with their families, which were destroyed over time with toxic and extreme dysfunctional behaviors.  We also know now that above all else the children of these families suffered the most by carrying the toxic childhood conditions forward as secondary PTSD to the next generation.

Older veterans who suffer from the symptoms of PTSD and have never had any treatment do not have to live with the pain.  My father received treatment later in life and really calmed down and achieved some level of peace of mind.  Most of we boomers who coped and lived with PTSD, both from secondary PTSD growing up with a parent from WWII, including the added emotional impact of combat during the Vietnam War, have the toughest time with age without therapy and reconciliation.  In my view, we should all have the goal of peace of mind before leaving this planet for good…

My recovery process is considered by many to be remarkable.  I was in denial until age 64 when first discovering my father’s root causes of his own abusive behaviors and alcoholism that resulted from the horrors of extended combat duty during WWII and again during the Korean War.  After revisiting my childhood years living in a highly toxic home and understanding my father’s PTSD, I am now able to separate the abusive behaviors from the person.  I see my father as a hero who served America with honor and pride.  He along with tens of thousands served in combat and saw the worst of human moral failings.  These men had close “battle buddies” who were killed in action.  They saw carnage years at a time, and the worst of it with innocent civilians, including children being slaughtered as collateral damage.  Many suffered in POW camps and were tortured.  It is horrific just to think about let alone experience directly for an extended period of time.  And now we know how all of this affects families, especially children.  So we see a nation in shock from generations of war… 

As an older American who served in the US Navy during the Vietnam era, and as a child of a parent who experienced direct combat during WWII and Korean War, I know something about the lingering emotional pain of war on veterans and the families who serve too…  It is time in our later years to find peace.  You don’t have to “suck it up” anymore.  You have earned America’s respect and deserve peace of mind.  Don’t hesitate, find a treatment therapy that works, start talking, and making a difference by helping others find peace of mind.  A warriors work is never done.  In life after war, it is still our duty to serve others and make a difference…  We all deserve to be happy and at peace with ourselves and those we love…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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