Tag Archives: Military Children and Families

Museum of the American Military Family… Prologue…My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 2, by Steve Sparks

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Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, ND, Executive Director, is an Army wife of twenty years and mother to an active duty soldier. She taught in the overseas Department of Defense Schools in Europe and the Caribbean and currently works for the federal government. In 2002, she compiled the stories of over 150 University of Maryland, Munich, Germany alumni, resulting in two books documenting the history of that campus’ 40-year history. She has been recognized for her unique education programs in the US and abroad and has been published in Eddiciones Santillana’s Strategies for Teaching English in Puerto Rico. She has been featured in the Army Times and has been quoted in scholarly books about growing up on military bases overseas. Circe belongs to the Blue Star Mothers and co-edits the American Overseas Schools Historical Society (AOSHS) Quarterly newsletter.

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Saving your children, family and loved ones from inter-generational post traumatic stress (PTS)

Prologue

The Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center (MAMF) is where people with shared and converging paths come together as community, inspiring a sense of place and history.

As a repository for their stories, we shape the future by preserving our heritage, recording its evolution, and inviting dialogue by sharing our experiences with the world.

Because military families often view the same event in history through a different lens than their service member, they provide a different perspective. In order to fully understand the military families’ experience, it’s important to examine history from all angles.

Military families have lots of stories to tell — and their stories should be recorded to be shared with future generations– happy stories–sad stories–and those almost too terrible to tell.

Navy brat and author Steve Sparks joined the MAMF community in 2013, especially to tell his story, which initially sad and bleak becomes one of inspiration.

Intergenerational PTSD is certainly not new, but until recently, little was said about it. Steve hopes that by telling his story, he can offer comfort and hope to others. By breaking the silence and talking about intergenerational PTSD, Steve hopes people can learn more about resources and tools available to them.

Steve has collaborated on several projects with MAMF, each time presenting different aspects of his life as a child growing up in a “toxic” household–because MAMF wants to present a complete picture of military family life, we would be remiss to gloss over the effects PTSD has on the family unit.

Circe Olson Woessner, Executive Director, Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center

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Release of my new book, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 2, is planned for mid-July 2015.  Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1…  Click on highlighted text for my author page…

Child Abuse, Neglect and Maltreatment on the Rise in Military Families…

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Stressed out Military Families need Support… A child abuse epidemic?  Quote from this website… Click on informative video clip!

“Of the 29,552 cases of child abuse and neglect in active-duty Army families from 2003 through 2012, according to Army Central Registry data, 15,557 were committed by soldiers, the others by civilians — mostly spouses.”

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The above quote from this site and story could have easily come from the 1950’s, post WWII and Korean War.  We didn’t have any awareness growing up as military kids from the boomer generation.  A toxic home life and scary circumstances connected to our family culture persisted without relief until it was time to leave home at age 17 to join the US Navy.  Following are my reflections of home life as a military child…

I have many vivid memories of violence in our home during the 1950’s and early 1960’s.  My father was self medicated and angry most of the time and we never understood any of it…we were just scared all the time.  My mother was stressed out and never understood his outbursts and panic attacks either.  We woke up in the middle of the night to Dad’s nightmares reliving his combat experiences in the South Pacific while serving in the US Navy.   My parents would fight well into the evening hours making it difficult to go to sleep.  Mom did all she could do to just get through each day.  We siblings became a secondary priority and mostly neglected, except we always had food on the table.  The local public school was one of the only escapes during the day.  We felt isolated and ashamed like we were always doing something bad or looked stupid to others.  There was little or no encouragement or support at home for our school work because of the challenges of our parents in dealing with their own issues.  We didn’t talk about our experiences at home to other kids for fear of the consequences of our parents finding out.  We lied to teachers and coaches when they asked questions concerning our own sad and angry behaviors.  We moved often so were unable to make lasting friendships that made a difference.  We were hesitant to bring friends home for fear of unexpected angry outbursts and toxic behaviors in our home.  It was a blessing to spend time at the home of friends and their families where we could see love and kindness, and wished it for our home.

The pattern of child abuse is the same today, but we do have far more awareness and treatment strategies, including criminal action in the worse cases, to mitigate the sad circumstances of a toxic home.  The health of children can be affected for a lifetime from early child abuse and maltreatment.  Awareness is clearly the path to healing for survivors of trauma.  Education is the best solution to help parents become aware of how children are damaged and carry the emotional baggage into adulthood.

A third non-fiction book, My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 2, is almost ready to be released.  Following is an excerpt from the book by way of introduction…

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Introduction: It has been almost 4 years since publishing my first nonfiction book, Reconciliation:  A Son’s Story, November 2011.   My personal path of healing and mitigation of the “ball and chain” of life-long symptoms of anxiety and depression, takes me back to children living and growing up in a toxic home.   The ideal time to save kids from the emotional baggage carried forward as a result of child abuse and maltreatment connected with toxic parenting is from the very beginning.  When parents become abundantly aware of how their parenting behaviors affect children and the detrimental life-long damage of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), they often become highly motivated to get help for themselves to save the kids if for nothing else.

Healing is about making a difference for others.  In the case of denial and ignorance on the part of parents who suffer from PTS, outrageous behaviors and angry outbursts, including physical abuse toward family members and loved ones, especially children, is common.  It’s too easy to pick on the loved ones in your life as a way to vent, but it is not always clear how much emotional damage is being done.  If parents knew the consequences of intergenerational PTS by inflicting emotional and physical pain onto children and family members, they would march down to the nearest alternative treatment center immediately and learn how to mitigate the symptoms effectively and begin the journey of healing.  In my experience and view, there would be no hesitation on the part of parents and adults if they had a higher level of awareness.  We could eventually break the intergenerational cycle of pain in a couple of decades if we started with our own kids very early.  Extensive research has shown babies will pick up on toxic circumstances and behaviors and demonstrate post trauma stress symptoms as they become older.

The goal of My Journey of Healing, Part 2 is to specifically help parents with stress triggers to save their kids from becoming emotionally damaged during these critical years from birth to age 18.  Most of the content comes from my own research, resources, references, and experience as a survivor of child abuse and maltreatment.  Since publishing my first book, I have kept up writing consistently on my blog and website www.survivethriveptsd.com.  I will use the compilation of short essays on my blog as the primary reference point since it focuses almost completely on children and families in life after trauma.  I have been writing on this subject for a long time.  It is now the right time to consolidate and integrate all the postings into a single reference book designed as a guide for parents who are survivors of traumatic life events, including hard combat as a warrior, sole survivors of an accident, and victims of assault and rape.  The painful symptoms of PTS can take on a life of their own if not treated effectively.  More importantly, the symptoms will have a consequential secondary effect on loved ones and children in particular.  Parents are solely responsible for protecting their children and will be highly motivated to do so once understanding the terrible consequences of exposing children to a home culture affected by life after trauma.”

Understanding Child Traumatic Stress from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) is a painful read but highly useful in becoming more aware of how children respond to trauma.  The good news…more often than not child survivors of abuse, maltreatment, and neglect grow up with a high level of compassion, a motivation to succeed, and a desire to make a difference in the world.  This does not take away from the critical need to do all you can to love and care for your children as if your own life is at stake.  I feel blessed about my life at this point, but do envy the families who are free of post traumatic stress in their lives.  I worry most about the children who can suffer for a life-time from growing up in a violent home culture…

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1… Click highlighted text for my author page…

 

 

 

Katie’s Way…A safe place of healing and treatment for young adults with mental health challenges…

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The Mathis Family Lost Katie to Depression…

Katie’s Way… Click on the highlighted text, and take a moment to see the powerfully moving video clip…

“Katie’s Way was established in cooperation with The No Stone Unturned Foundation to provide services that promote social-emotional development, prevent development of mental health challenges, and address social-emotional problems that currently exist.”

“Katie’s Way was developed to overcome barriers by providing:

  • A non-institutional setting to overcome the stigmatism associated with an institutional model
  • Team-Based Care – psychiatry and psychology professionals all working together
  • All staff are specialty credentialed in child and adolescent psychiatry/psychology”

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We live in the rural community of Depoe Bay, Oregon in Lincoln County on the Central Oregon Coast.  We are blessed to live out our dreams in this beautiful and stunning coastal community.  We have big challenges just like many rural towns, including the lack of resources to help those who are mentally challenged, especially kids.  The stigma of mental health hits us hard just like everywhere else in America.  Most hesitate or even avoid telling parents and loved ones about feelings of severe depression and anxiety for fear it will not lead to a helpful outcome, or even worse, could keep them from achieving dreams of college, career, and building loving relationships.  We are devastated and traumatized whenever there is word of a death, suicide or accident connected with the need for vastly improved mental health treatment and healing resources.

One of the most recent tragedies in our community is the story of little London McCabe, who’s mother tossed him over the Yaquina Bridge in Newport, Oregon because she was hearing voices.  Other examples we can’t mention names in order to protect victims, include child abuse, sexual abuse and maltreatment.  My own life experience includes a severely toxic and sometimes violent home culture while growing up in the 1950’s and early 1960’s before leaving to join the US Navy in 1963… “I got away!”

The State of Oregon acknowledges the need to improve mental health support and treatment resources by making it a legislative priority.  Our local Depoe Bay, Oregon City Council formally put mental health on its agenda.  We participate in the local community governing process by sitting on both the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC) and the Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC).  We are making room in our new Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital expansion to include space and beds for a detox treatment center.  Where we have a sticky problem is trying to build resources within our smaller communities similar to Katie’s Way, where getting help comes from a safe and secure setting managed by non institutional professionals and volunteers.

Katie’s Way is a non-profit public private partnership business model we need to get serious about right now!  There have been attempts in the past that have either failed or struggled to achieve sustainability.  We have the compassion, passion, and talent in Lincoln County to make it happen, we just need to go the extra mile.  I hope the story of Katie’s Way will give us the extra energy and commitment to move forward more quickly.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…  Click the highlighted text for my author page.

Depoe Bay City Councilor

https://www.facebook.com/councilorsparks     Please “like” my page…

 

 

Kids Remind Us of The Christmas Spirit… Surround yourself with the joy and laughter of children…

 

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“Be a Kids Hero!” Click highlighted text for more…

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This time of year I reflect on the many blessings in my life… my family, my friends, and Heroes like you who are helping make the world a better place for children. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or simply the warmth of the season, I wish you and your family peace, love and much happiness. Thank you for making my 2014 so very memorable and I look forward to partnering with you in the coming year as we collaborate to continue raising awareness and work to protect even more children.

Warmest wishes,

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My friend and colleague Ginger Kadlec has helped me over the past several years to learn more about the lasting effects of children victimized by maltreatment and child abuse.  My heightened level of awareness has strengthened my own journey of healing from experiencing the trauma of child abuse while growing up as a military child during the 1950’s and early 1960’s.  I am now able to talk about and share my experience with others without shame or denial.  I have come to know and believe that those who suffer from past traumatic events, including child abuse, can heal from the invisible wounds and symptoms of depression, anxiety and guilt.  It is not what is wrong with a trauma victim, it is what happened to them! (click highlighted text).  Knowing this fact allows a person struggling with the painful emotional baggage of traumatic events, including maltreatment and child abuse, to move forward in life with peace of mind and much improved mental health.

It is in the spirit of Ginger’s holiday greeting and heartwarming work to protect children, our most precious resource, that I extend my thanks and best wishes during this season to my three daughters, and their families, other family members, friends, and followers.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…

Help a Military Family During this Holiday Season…

 

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They give their all for you, give back to them now…

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.”

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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…

All the best during this 2014 Holiday Season…

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…  Click on the highlighted links for my author page…

Member, Oregon Coast Veterans Association  Click highlighted text for Facebook page…

“After husband’s tragic death, widow takes on PTSD” – Stars and Stripes

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In this May 2, 2014 photo, family, friends and members of the military gather beside Kryn Miner’s casket after his funeral outside St. Lawrence Church in Essex, Vt. His widow Amy Miner, third from left, believes the Veterans Affairs health system must do more to help veterans who struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after returning home. EMILY MCMANAMY, BURLINGTON FREE PRESS/AP

Widow takes on cause of PTSD awareness…

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In this May 12, 2014 photo, Amy Miner, of Essex, Vt., poses in Burlington, Vt., with an April 2013 photo of herself and husband Kryn Miner, an Army veteran who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and who was shot to death by one of their children in April after threatening to kill the family. Amy Miner believes the Veterans Affairs health system must do more to help veterans who struggle with PTSD after returning home. HOLLY RAMER/AP

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The story referenced in this blog post, is very real to me, and the tragedy can happen to any family living with the painful circumstances and toxic behavior connected with family dynamics in the privacy of home.   I write in my book about the constant fear and threat that can make loved ones feel trapped and in fear of their own lives.  Constant outbursts of anger and rage causing emotional and physical abuse have the potential of a life threatening action either as a suicide to end the pain, or the ultimate act of defense by a loved one to escape the nightmare of domestic violence.

We must do more in our communities at the local level to take ownership for helping veterans on their journey of healing in life after war.  In my view, the VA does not currently have the capacity to provide critical care or appropriate personal connection with veterans when they return home.  Veterans suffering from the painful symptoms of PTS feel lost when they return home.  If there is an unrealistic expectation of what the VA is supposed to do or not do, responsibility for caregiving in the local community can suffer.  The lack of speedy access to “tender loving care” and the ignorance of denial at home where our warriors live, puts lives at risk every day.  I know from my own childhood experience how scared we were as siblings observing my father’s frequent rages and angry outbursts.  We had no choice but to stay out of the line of fire as much as we could.  We couldn’t wait for the opportunity to get away from home to be with friends or in the safety of teachers at school.

If this tragic story, along with my own reflective comments, rings a bell in your own circumstance, or with someone else, do not hesitate to seek help from friends and neighbors, including local mental health resources.  Do not give up or wait for the VA to act.  The local community must take action as the primary caregivers of veterans who struggle adjusting to life following extended deployments in combat.  Don’t let your hero feel lost in the shuffle of a higher bureaucracy and alone at home suffering in silence not wanting to impose on friends, family, and local resources.  Our warriors protected us and risked their lives.  Now, we must do our part to care for them when they return home.

Steve Sparks, Author, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1 and Reconciliation, A Son’s Story

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my books, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1… (Kindle $2.99), and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

May 26: Sacrifice & Service: The American Military Family Exhibit opens Memorial Day in Albuquerque…

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my books, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1… (Kindle $2.99), and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

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The military family serves too!

Museum of the American Military Family…”We Served Too…”  Quote from this website… “Through this exhibit, the community can see history through a different filter, relive their own military roots, open dialogue between generations, and leave with a deeper appreciation of what it means to serve as a military family. This is an opportunity for visitors to experience a unique part of history, their history, in many cases — their complete story–the joy and pain, the sorrow, and the sacrifice…”

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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History…  Quoting from this website…

“Sacrifice & Service: The American Military Family” is a special exhibit that will open Memorial Day, May 26, and run through August 31 at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.

This inspiring exhibition celebrates America’s rich military history through the voices of America’s military families. Through written word and interactive elements, visitors will experience the joy, the sorrow and the sacrifice of America’s steadfast and unsung heroes, the military family.

There is no additional admission cost to view the exhibit beyond regular Museum admission; $8 for adults and $7 for youth and seniors.

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I am honored as a former US Navy military child and Vietnam era veteran, to participate in the Museum of the American Military Family Memorial Day exhibit “Sacrifice and Service.”  My story as a child of a US Navy WWII and Korean War combat veteran is painful.  America’s combat veterans from all wars up to and including Vietnam were from the “go home and forget about it” and “suck it up” culture.  Not because we wanted to ignore the moral injury and invisible wounds of war sustained by American soldiers and sailors who protected the freedoms of Americans, it was because we were ignorant of the lasting emotional damage in life after war.  Medical science did not define or measure the mental health effects of war until around 1980 following the Vietnam War.  Until recently we did not recognize how war affected the entire military family, especially children, often for a lifetime. 

“We served too” has a special meaning to me.   I am proud of my father’s honorable and heroic service during WWII and the Korean War.  I am proud to have been a military child from a US Navy family where my mother served too as a single mom during all WWII and as the life long caregiver for my father.  I am proud to have served in the US Navy during the Vietnam era.  And, I am especially proud to be an American.   I am also now well aware of how war affects the bodies, minds and souls of warriors like my father, including the families, who served America with honor, duty and pride.  I am especially aware of how the American military family served as caregivers to the men and women who returned home following long and multiple deployments in hard combat.  It is with this knowledge and awareness that my own journey of healing includes helping others become educated on the lingering effects and on-going treatment of moral injury and Post-Traumatic Stress on the military family.

I am looking forward to a full schedule of book readings, discussions, and interaction with visitors attending the Museum of the American Military Family “Sacrifice and Service” exhibit on May 31st and June 1st at the Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque.   It is a high honor and privilege to share my personal experience and body of work to help others know more of their own family’s proud but sometimes painful military history and service to America…

As a gift to the Museum of the American Military Family and the upcoming “Sacrifice and Service” exhibit, following is a short poem reflecting heartfelt thoughts about my post WWII and Korean War experience as a US Navy military child.  “We served too!”

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Steve Sparks, 1956, age 10…click to expand photo…

Mother always told Dad we were bad while he was away at sea.

We were safe and free when Dad sailed away.

Fear and beatings made us cry you see…

Mother seemed happier when Dad was away at sea.

With love, joy, and play,

Dreams of family all together forever.

The fear and beatings came again anyway…

By Steve Sparks 

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Steve Sparks, Author, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1 and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story 

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A post WWII family's struggle with moral injury and PTSD

Photos on cover of Vernon and Marcella Sparks c1940 and the USS West Virginia in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor…