PTSD and the Forever War

On May 8, 1945, Great Britain and the United States celebrated Victory in Europe Day. Flags and banners fluttered in the breeze as celebrations erupted and people rejoiced in the defeat of Nazi Germany. The war was over. But for some… It would never end.

dad-1940sFor as long as I could remember, my WWII veteran father worked the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift and slept during the day. My parent’s bedroom was right next to mine, and I derived great comfort from hearing my father snoring in a sound sleep. I say I derived great comfort from it because there were times that the sounds I heard coming from his room broke my heart and made me cry.

dad-approx-1946Sleep often brought nightmares that transported my father back to the battlefields of Europe. On countless occasions, I heard him calling out in German, “Halt! Hände hoch!” (Halt, hands up) or shouting other things I didn’t understand. He would thrash around in bed, breathing hard as if running or fighting. Sometimes he cried out in French.

Pain. Fear. Bravery. Anger. I could almost feel the emotional strain of war, the angst of uncertainty, and the will to survive. Most heart wrenching of all was when he would weep uncontrollably and repeat his buddy’s name over and over, then sob even more.

I knew that story well. His friend and battle buddy had been shot in the back. The bullet twisted through his body and spilled his entrails out his belly. The man died on my father’s lap while my father cried, “Why? Oh, God, why?”

My father fought a forever war. Thankfully, in recent years we’ve learned to recognize the symptoms of PTSD and actually do something to help those who are affected by it. If you’re reading this and you have a friend or loved one who is fighting their own forever war, please encourage them to get help.

Today would have been my father’s 98th birthday. In his honor, I would like to salute a few family members who have served in the armed forces and let them know how much I love them and appreciate their service:

My husband – group picture, third man from the left, and my brother Tommy.

Thank you for visiting today. If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in my next novel, More Than a Soldier. It’s a heartwarming story about Hank Fleming, a former spec. ops soldier who suffers  from PTSD, but finds a way to leave the pain of the past behind and find peace of heart.

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