From teens, to young adults, to the middle aged and the elderly, and with people from all backgrounds and educational experience, the topic of PTSD connects directly or indirectly. The conversation on December 10, 2011 at Pirate Coffee in Depoe Bay, Oregon was amazing. This was my first book signing event for, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story. My favorite but sad story was told by a caregiver of an 88 year old WWII veteran and former POW who was hiding out with a buddy at a farm in the hills of Tuscany. The family took them in when they escaped from a bus that was transporting them to a POW camp. The farmers who wanted to hide them gave them work and fed them for some time. They both hid out in the barn. Finally, the Germans found out about them and they were captured one day. The heart wrenching part of this story is the German soldiers made the American POW’s watch while they murdered the entire family of the farmers who befriended them and tried to save them from being captured.
This incident lives with this man in his heart to this day, and he has difficulty talking about it even when he feels like it. The strong emotions and extreme sadness is still with him after all these years. He uses art as therapy according to his caregiver for 7 years. She said, “he is such a wonderful man, but lonely, with no family.” She believes he could not enter into a relationship as a result of this experience because he felt so guilty about what happened. This man believes to this day that he is responsible for the killing of this beautiful and wonderful family that tried to save him during that time so long ago.
PTSD takes its toll for a lifetime. Let us not forget the importance of making sure our loved ones returning from war right now get the treatment they need to recover and live a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life like most of us who are blessed with a loving family and friends.
December 10th was my Dad, Vernon’s birthday. He would have been 93. I felt his spirit and know he is proud of me for taking on the cause of PTSD awareness on behalf of thousands of past and present combat veterans who suffer emotionally and physically long after they come home from war.