We need to talk more about “Secondary PTSD” and the suffering of military family members…

by | Oct 15, 2012

http://m.military.com/spouse/military-life/military-resources/the -toll-of-war-milwives-and-suicide.html  Quotes from this website…

In April last year, Sheena Griffin phoned her estranged husband, a soldier at Fort Hood, Tex., who was deploying to Afghanistan, to tell him she was thinking about killing herself and the children. When sheriff’s deputies arrived, they found the two-story home in flames. The two boys, aged 8 and 9, were dead from gunshot wounds and lying together on a twin bed. Their 36-year-old mother was on the floor, also dead.
Earlier this year, Deborah Mullen, the wife of the then-Joint Chiefs chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, blew the whistle on the growing incidents of suicides and suicide attempts by wives and other family members, and the military’s failure to respond.
“I was stunned when I was told there are too many to track,” Mrs. Mullen said in calling on the services to confront the problem and implement prevention measures with spouses in mind.

I write in my non-fiction book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, about the torturing conditions of home life following WWII when Dad returned home following a total of 66 months of combat duty before and during the war.  My mother was affected already with trauma waiting and wondering if Dad would ever come home following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and then 25 months in the Pacific soon after.  He came home briefly to meet his first son, Jerry, before being deployed on the USS Belle Grove in the Asiatic Pacific Theater.  When Dad came home in the summer of 1945 the war did not end.  I was born the summer of 1946 and my brother, Danny, the following year, 1947.  Dad seemed to function okay in his professional life in the US Navy, but could not keep his emotional challenges from the war in check at home.  All of us acquired “Secondary PTSD” like bad genes.  There was no treatment or understanding of the symptoms, so we coped, but not without carrying baggage around and acting out ourselves as siblings and later adults.  I believe mother suffered terribly for most of her life and still at 94 has flashbacks.  Sister, Laura was born in time for the Korean War when Dad was deployed yet again.  And youngest brother Scott came long after the wars, but still came into a family of turmoil and dysfunction.

I know now that as a family we were not alone…  I also know that a high percentage of blog followers and readers of my book, are boomers who suffered growing up in post WWII families with parents challenged with moral injury from the trauma of war in combat and in life after war.  The statistics are stunning, and represent a terrible legacy of all wars, including those who are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.  And let us not forget the Viet Nam War and the Gulf War, of which families continue to suffer and try to repair the damage of life after war.  Although we know more now and are able to provide treatment alternatives, PTSD and moral injury is an overwhelming cultural and societal challenge made exponentially worse with the reality of “Secondary PTSD” among family members and loved ones.

My goal is to promote awareness with this blog and my non-fiction book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, which can be ordered from this website.  Awareness is the first step in getting help with the many resources available for PTSD treatments.  Being engaged and connectedness with others is the path forward.  Going alone on this journey is counter productive and will only enable sufferers of PTSD and loved ones to cope and struggle often for a life time.  PTSD does not go away over night, it lingers.  It is critical to seek help first, then make a difference for others to begin the lifetime journey of healing.

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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