The care provider or caregiver is sometimes the only “family” a combat veteran can count on.

by | May 14, 2012

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“One of the major complaints from caregivers is that they have no one to turn to and no real help. They become exhausted and display symptoms of Secondary Trauma Stress, or Secondary PTSD. The new study put forth from the University of Syracuse’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families suggests that treating the family members for their STS will make the living environment better for veterans and increase the chances of success in treatment.”

While participating at a book signing event a few months ago, I met a caregiver of a WWII combat veteran, who has lived alone all of his adult life following his release as a POW.  She shared a horrific story of this veteran’s escape after being picked up by German soldiers.  He and a fellow American paratrooper were being transported by bus when an accident occurred.  The two US soldiers escaped and found a farm family in the hills of Tuscany and hid there for some months under the protection and care of the family.  German soldiers eventually learned of the POW’s whereabouts and went to the farm and captured the paratroopers in hiding.  But before they took them away to a German prison camp, they were marched out to the pasture on the farm along with the entire family who befriended the American soldiers.  The two American POWs watched in horror as the German soldiers shot and killed the entire family in front of them.

The lady who had been the elderly WWII POW veteran’s caregiver for 7 years indicated that it took several years to even get this man to tell the terrible story.  The man barely speaks and has been alone since the end of WWII in Europe.  He never married, nor had living family members or friends, and has never worked.  He has suffered severely from PTSD and has been disabled since the end of WWII.  On the day of my book signing event in Depoe Bay, Oregon, the man’s caregiver was buying my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, for the elderly gentleman’s 88th birthday, so that he could become more of aware of the plight of fellow WWII veterans who suffered from PTSD.

I was so moved by the story and the sweet lady who had been the caregiver of the WWII POW, that it rendered me speechless.  I kicked myself more than once for not getting her name.  Imagine the trauma suffered for a lifetime after watching a loving family who helped you escape killed in front of your eyes.  This Italian farm family during the time of WWII brought the two American POW’s into their life as family members and put them to work on the farm.  The mother, father, and children killed became family and he and his fellow POW buddy loved them all as their own family members.

The above article regarding caregivers of veterans who suffer from the symptoms of PTSD reminded me that more often than we know; veterans are alone and the caregivers in their lives are family with the same emotional challenges as a typical loved one or family member.  Caregivers or care providers should be recognized and honored for their service in caring for veterans of all wars who end up alone in life.

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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