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Thursday, December 3, 2009


Elderly Canadian veterans of World War II in a Veterans home have vivid flashbacks of the war. Sounds during an MRI trigger long ago memories of battle. To some of the residents with dementia, WWII is their reality.

Monday, November 30, 2009

World War II vet commits suicide at VA clinic

A South Carolina World War II veteran took his own life outside a VA clinic. He had attempted to get a PTSD classification (prior to 1980 it was called anxiety neurosis) a number ot times and it was always denied. Just demonstates the long lasting memory of war.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another World War II vet writes a book about his PTSD

Glenn, 85, has a long ponytail, easy smile and bright eyes that belie the sometimes somber nature of "The Hawk And The Dove," a chronicle of his wartime experience on Okinawa and in Korea following the end of hostilities with Japan. His book was recently published by Kittery-based Smith/Kerr Associates. He said he has battled post-traumatic stress disorder since before the now widely recognized issue had a name, and what began as a book about his experience in World War II grew into a tale of his long struggle with demons ranging from nightmares of killing and death to alcoholism.

Another story being told in old age about a World War II veterans struggle with the problem of war trauma which wasn't diagnosed and treated after WWII. Those who sought help, like my father, often got a diagnosis of anxiety neurosis and inability to digest war experiences.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Return To Duty - MTV

This shows a young vet who was on The Real World returning to Iraq for a second tour of duty.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Veteran Aid

An interesting and useful website was sent to me by a daughter of a WWII veteran which will help with VA benefits for care - another child of a WWII veteran making a difference:

I wanted to share the following with the hope it will make a difference for someone you love.

I am also the daughter of a WWII veteran whose death lead me to discover a hidden VA Pension Benefit known as Improved Pension, which is a 3-tier Pension that includes, Basic, Housebound and Aid and Attendance.

This is a Pension and not disability compensation. It can represent up to $23,000 annually to help pay for care. I filed on behalf of my mom as his widow, and got the Pension awarded to her.

Four years ago at my mother's passing, I launched dedicated to my parents and my journey as their daughter.

My hope is make a difference for someone else who now walks in my shoes as they face being the caregiver of older parents and in need of financial assistance to pay for that care.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

PTSD and a Medal of Honor Winner

A new documentary about the effort to name an airfield in Idaho about a Medal of Honor winner, Pappy Boyington, a Marine pilot who led the Black Sheep Squadron in WWII and who was also a prisoner of war.

Quoted for educational purposes from USC News:

Boyington, an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, became famous for his heroism as a pilot during World War II, commanding the famous VMF-214, also known as the “Black Sheep Squadron.” He was captured and became a prisoner of war for nearly the last two years of the war. Upon his return, he was awarded the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.Boyington later wrote Baa Baa Black Sheep, an best-selling autobiography and inspiration for the ’70s TV series of the same name. But the hero’s personal postwar life was plagued with problems, including alcoholism, which contributed to multiple divorces and bad debts. It was judgment of his personal life that initially prevented county officials from renaming the Idaho airfield.
“I do have a section of the film called ‘Pappy’s Reputation,’ which explores what the implications of his reputation were on the campaign locally,” he said. “As a filmmaker, you hope to be a part of dialogue about a subject. In screening the film about a WWII hero on military bases, some Marines bring up the point that as a society, we didn’t come to understand PTSD and its effects until after Vietnam.”

Click on title for entire article

Monday, August 31, 2009

Okinawa Remembered

Some memories, long repressed, never die. This 85 year old World War II veteran is dealing with long ago horrors that he was able to suppress for many years. The bloody battle of Okinawa, with many civilian and service casualties, is coming back to haunt him.

Extensive quote for educational purposes:

John Landry never spoke about the island, the scattered bodies, the smell of death -- but six decades later, nightmares of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II woke him up from his sleep soaked in sweat.
"They were things I could never talk about, but it's time I told it like it was," said Landry, 85, whose buried memories began haunting him after he saw scenes of the Iraq war on television.
"I don't want to leave this world and take it with me."
The most gruesome chapter of the veteran's life happened in the Battle of Okinawa -- the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific theater of the war.

"The things that went on on that island are things you never forget," Landry said. "Death was all over the place."
Except for a long time, Landry did manage to push down those memories.
Only recently have the long-blocked scenes started to come back to life.
He can suddenly see mothers clutching babies and leaping off cliffs into the water. He can see the natives fleeing into caves engulfed by fire minutes later from grenades.
"What got me was these people were trying to get away from us, and it was their island," he said. "I hadn't seen the destruction we were doing from the air. Now I'm on land and I'm seeing the bodies, the kids. I could smell burning flesh, which is something if you ever got near it, you never forget."
The ferocity of fighting in the 82-day-long bitter battle from March to June 1945 caused among the highest casualties of any WWII engagement, earning it the nickname "Typhoon of Steel."
Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed or wounded or attempted suicide.
Had he followed the rules, his last war memory would have stayed in Europe.
He would have continued to tell his family the only part he has always told -- about the roughly eight months he spent performing air missions for the British Coastal Command.
And how he served in the same squadron as Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. -- President John F. Kennedy's brother who died in a plane crash. How he ate dinner next to and walked the town with the sociable pilot.
"I was very proud to have known him, whether his brother was president or not," Landry said.
But about five years ago, Landry was reminded of the untold stories when he was combing his hair and a sliver of what he believes was shrapnel from Okinawa fell from his head.
"He'd tell us about his flying days, but he never talked about Okinawa," said his wife, Patricia. "I think he wants to get it out in the open. The World War II veterans are dying off, and their stories are getting lost."
Landry, who spent much of civilian life as a construction heavy equipment operator, joined the Navy "because I liked the navy-blue suit" and was drawn to romantic sailor tales.
The father of five sons said Okinawa scenes have started coming back in bits and pieces, many times through nightmares.
"I'm lost and I can't get to where I want to be," he said of his dreams. "I think it's because I don't want to do what I have to do. I don't want to wake up in a foxhole or in the dirt."
He has finally began sharing with his family the details he had intentionally forgotten.
"I've been through what I've been through, and I changed because of it. I just want them to hear it," .


Monday, August 24, 2009

Warrior to Spiritual Warrior - Jess E. Weiss

I just completed the above titled book by Jess E. Weiss, a 91 year old veteran of World War II. He was in the second wave of the Omaha beach landing on D-Day. I strongly recommend this book (available on Amazon) A few excerpts:

The beach was congested with the dead and wounded. . . . There wasn't a pebble to hide behind. I crawled under the bodies I'd piled . . . . I waited frozen and afraid, thoughts racing, Am I dreaming? Am I dead? What does being dead feel like?


It's the residual effect of being afraid all the time and pretending you're not.It's the killing, the death, and the dying around you. Your mind turns into a camera taking pictures and storing negatives in your brain stem, but you don't develop them. . . . the real you down in the base of your brain is dormant, waiting for the right sound or sign to trigger something berserk. You clamp down on that guy. . . . And that just makes the berserker more berserk when he does break out. And he will. He will. You're a real fun guy to grow up with.

Friday, August 14, 2009

64th Anniversary of VJ Day - A Veteran's Memories

This World War II veteran wrote to the New York Times to make sure that the anniversary of VJ day was not forgotten. The paper did a feature on him with an emphasis on how PTSD still impact him decades after the war.

Article from NYT, 8/14/09 - for educational purposes

August 14, 2009
This Land
Keeping Alive Memories That Bedevil Him
A retired postal worker, living not entirely at peace in an adult community called Leisure Village West, recently sent remember-the-date notes to large newspapers and television networks, then followed up with calls that often bounced to voice mail. The 14th of August; remember the date.
He was not asking so much as he was demanding.
Friday is the 14th of August: a dog day to many but always V-J Day to some, including this man, Albert Perdeck. It is the 64th anniversary of the surrender by Japan to end World War II. Attention must be paid, he says with urgency. He is 84.
“Last year, 2008, there was no mention of this on the news,” reads his handwritten note to The New York Times. “I am requesting to have the day remembered by your in-depth reporting.”
In addition to “V-J,” as in Victory over Japan, his note contains other abbreviations, including “P.T.S.D.,” as in: “The 17 months I was in combat still causes terrible flashbacks and nightmares of the mutilated bodies I helped to recover.”
He does not care that some people are uncomfortable with V-J Day, given the close relationship the country now has with Japan, and given two other dates in August 1945 (the 6th: Hiroshima, and the 9th: Nagasaki). To him, the day carries its own political correctness: It celebrates the victorious end to a world-saving war in which hundreds of thousands of Americans died far from home. He saw some of them die.
Mr. Perdeck sits in a small community room at Leisure Village West, surrounded by the brittle newspapers and old photographs he carries with him. “Everyone’s laughing,” he says of today’s world, voice rising again, tears coming again. “And I still smell it! I smell it now — beyond 60 years!”
You’ve seen these Al Perdecks all your life — sipping early-morning coffee, say, with buddies at McDonald’s — but less so now. Stocky, not tall, with shock-white hair and a Norman Mailer look of pugnacity. Wearing shorts, dark socks and a boxy baseball cap embroidered with the name of the ship on which he served. You’ve seen him.
Now imagine him in June 1943, the just-drafted momma’s boy from Newark. Hadn’t finished high school, hadn’t been with a girl. Soon he and a couple of thousand other sailors were aboard the U.S.S. Bunker Hill (CV-17), the aircraft carrier that would distinguish itself in the Pacific Theater. His job: tending to the fighter planes on the flight deck and giving the thumbs-up to the pilots before they soared into uncertainty.
He turned 19 onboard, then 20. One day he is doing Donald Duck impressions with a friend, the next he sees a crewmate killed by shrapnel from a near miss. He is boy and man, both.
On May 11, 1945, a kamikaze attack turned the flight deck of the Bunker Hill into an inferno. Pilots in the ready room died in their seats. Planes caught fire, their machine guns discharging rounds. The smoke created a black curtain that Mr. Perdeck could not quite part.
Wounded: 264. Missing: 43. Dead: 346.
V-J Day came just three months later. Mr. Perdeck remembers hearing the news while on liberty in Seattle. He ran through the streets shouting: “The war’s over! The war’s over!”
Discharged as a seaman first class in 1946, he returned to Newark and met a young woman named Elaine at a dance at the Y.M.H.A. They married in 1950, moved to Ocean County, raised a boy and a girl, and struggled. A wood-pattern maker by trade, Mr. Perdeck finally took a post office job; for the security, he says.
But that black curtain never quite parted. He hated Fourth of July fireworks and struggled with flashbacks, but it was more than that. Mrs. Perdeck said her husband would overreact when disciplining the children, when dealing with a conflict at work, when confronted, really, with everyday life. “He was always angry,” she says, with love.
He could not shake free of the war. The burned and mutilated body parts. The rows of dead crewmates on the flight deck. That strange moment in the enveloping blackness when he stepped on a prostrate sailor, then yelled at the man to get the hell up, this is no time to sleep. The sailor, of course, could not wake.
In 1997, 51 years after his discharge, Mr. Perdeck told his wife he needed to talk to someone. She knew what he meant. It’s about time, she said.
A clinical psychologist, Dr. Walter Florek, eventually gave a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Now the rage that Mr. Perdeck felt, the isolation, the anxiety and the sadness had a name.
Mr. Perdeck spent six weeks in a veterans’ hospital, where he attended lots of meetings but does not recall encountering another veteran from his war, the one a half-century past. Did his hospitalization help? He shrugs.
These days, Mr. Perdeck accompanies his wife to various social functions at Leisure Village West, and he is active with the U.S.S. Bunker Hill Association, whose annual gatherings get smaller and smaller. When he speaks of other alumni by name, he usually adds a “May he rest in peace.”
He also works to keep V-J Day alive. Last year he contacted The Asbury Park Press and asked how it planned to honor the day; the paper published a story about him. This year he went national, though he says he spent most of his time talking to machines.
And every other Thursday, he drives to Dr. Florek’s office on Route 70 in Lakewood for a group session with a dozen or so World War II and Korean War veterans, all of whom have P.T.S.D. A patient counselor named Olga Price guides the discussion.
The group met again Thursday. An Air Force veteran with a squawking hearing aid. An Army infantryman with a cane. A Navy flyboy, now blind, who still sees the devastated Hiroshima he flew over 64 years ago. His walking stick is adorned with a small American flag.
You’ve seen these men, these men who would never talk about it. But now, in the embrace of their own, they did, sometimes with sobs. One of them recalled killing an enemy soldier who was little more than a boy.
“I see him virtually every day,” he said. “It just goes on and on and on and on.”
The other men nodded without saying a word, including the one in shorts, dark socks and a shirt with the words “U.S.S. Bunker Hill” over his heart.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Omaha Beach - A Survivor's Story

This new book is written by a World War II D-Day survivor

Warrior to Spiritual Warrior: The Soldier’s Journey by Jess Weiss with Chuck Noell recounts a rare and remarkable personal story of spiritual healing. Jess Weiss is a decorated member of the Greatest Generation, one of the few combat soldiers from the landing at Omaha Beach, D-Day, who lived to tell the tale. This book is not about the blood and guts or the glory of a soldier’s life, it is about coping with death and dying, surviving fifty years of “Why me?” survivor guilt, and the ravages of Post Traumatic Stress (an impairment that didn’t have a name in World War II.) It is the tale of how one man climbed out of the dark pit of debilitating injury to forge a path of spiritual resurrection and transformation for himself. Whether you are religious, spiritual, or simply concerned about the long-term effects of war, this book will inspire hope and renew your faith in what is grand and great about the human adventure.

Click on article to enlarge: Postscript - Staff Sergeant Herbert Siegal was found and Jess Weiss was reunited with him. Courtesy of Tom Brokaw, the 2 men were sent back to Normandy together.

Click on title for link to Warrior to Spiritual Warrior: The Soldier's Journey, the new book by Jess E. Weiss

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Vietnam Vet and Daughter help returning vets

A Vietnam veteran and his daughter are speaking out about his PTSD after Vietnam to soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. They are civilian volunteers for the Michigan National Guard and hope to let the veterans know that it is important to seek help. It was 30 years before Don Behm, the vet, had a breakdown and was able to talk about his experiences.

Click on title for link to the article

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Long Lasting PTSD

They thought they had locked up the memories and thrown away the key.
Talking meant remembering, so many veterans of World War II didn't speak about the scenes of carnage and combat they saw more than 60 years ago. Not even to their wives or children.
Suck it up, lock it away -- from an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer - 7/16/09

World War II veterans are still exhibiting symptoms of PTSD 65 years after the end of the war. Of the 2.5 million WWII veterans still alive today, estimates range from 20 to 30 percent of them suffer from PTSD. Some of them have had PTSD symptoms ever since the war, but many are recently experiencing them - some because of loss of a spouse, others due to retirement, and a number due to dementia, wherein long ago memories remain, while the short term memories are difficult to retain.

The WWII veterans should be helped and in doing so, more information will be available to help the subsequent group of veterans, especially the large number of Vietnam vets who are already in their sixties.

Click on title for link.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Untold Story of the Greatest Generation's Trauma

A portion of Thomas Childers' article from the Boston Globe on Father's Day, June 2009:
(quoted extensively for educational purposes)

My father Tom Childers and Willis Allen, my best friend Gary’s father, were veterans of the Second World War, prototypes of what we have come to call “the Greatest Generation.” Raised in modest circumstances during the Great Depression, with little in the way of social or economic advantages, they fought and survived the war, returned home, had families, and built successful careers. They prospered, joined social clubs, watched their sons play Little League, took their families on vacations to Florida. They were model veterans, model family men.

But for Tom and Willis and many other men who returned from World War II, there was another, more complex and unsettling reality that lurked below the glossy surface of the Greatest Generation storyline. The men and women of that generation deserve all the testimonials they receive, but the uncomplicated, reassuring portrayal of their experiences found in Tom Brokaw’s best-selling book and in our public discourse has become more than a tribute to a passing generation; it has become our public memory of “the good war” and its aftermath. Indeed, it has been repeated so often in public commemorations that it has become almost an incantation, more liturgical than historical.

I thought of Willis and Tom earlier this month as I watched dignitaries and aged veterans gather in Normandy to commemorate the fateful D-Day landings of June 6, 1944. Never mentioned in such ceremonies or in the vast media attention devoted to the “Greatest Generation” is another battle our fathers waged. That battle was not fought in the fields of Europe or the jungles of the South Pacific but in towns and cities all across America, sometimes in highly public spaces - hospitals and courtrooms - but more often in parlors, kitchens, and bedrooms. As many veterans and their families would discover, the last daunting challenge of the war, for those fortunate enough to survive it, was attempting to resume a life interrupted and forever changed by war.

I wonder how many of us were part of the war our fathers continued to fight in the isolation of our homes.

Click on the title for a link to the entire article

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A New Generation of Children Suffers

This USA Today article outlines how at least a quarter of the children of today's soldiers are suffering from the effects of their fathers' or mothers' war. Behavior problems and depression are associated with the family strains brought about by multiple deployments. The author states that programs to help are available, but few ask for help. I question whether it is known that programs are available, and how accessible they are to the families.

Click on title for link.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Invisible Wounds That Kill

This touching article published in the Philadelphia Inquirer (click on title of post for link) on Memorial Day 2009 articulates how the hidden traumas of World War II haunted a survivor of Okinawa so that even though he physically returned from the war, he never really came home. Marvin Ravinsky, who died alone and destitute, finally received honor and recognition. The author of this article, Chris Gibbons, respectfully gives tribute to the warrior who was forgotten and isolated during his life.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Soldier from the War Returning - The Greatest Generation's Troubled Homecoming

Thomas Childers, Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, has written a book, with the above title, from the heart. He details the truth about the return of World War II veterans. Using both his personal story, which includes his father's return from England and the death of his maternal uncle in the last bomber shot down over Germany before VE day (written about in Wings of Morning), he articulates the truth that many of we children of World War II veterans have discovered - that even if our fathers came home physically whole, there were invisible wounds from the war that we intuited, but were not able to put voice to for many years. He also thoroughly details the high unemployment and the high divorce rate after the war. A great read if you want to discover the not so rosy homecoming of the Greatest Generation.

The NPR show Here and Now broadcast an interview with the author on Memorial Day, May 25, 2009. (click on title for a link to the show's site.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Soft Spots - Universality of the Combat Veteran's Trauma

I completed Soft Spots by Clint Van Winkle. It is a wonderfully written book, weaving war experiences in Iraq with his continuing flashbacks after he returns home. I found especially enlightening what he wrote about his World War II grandfather, since it mirrors what my WWII veteran father told me about the lasting impact of war, even World War II, the "Good War"

Excerpt from the book:

My grandpa never talked about World War II to anyone. The family knew he had served in the Army but not much else. After I became a Marine, he started to tell stories about his war to me. It was a "good war" -- the other "war to end all wars" that didn't end any wars. I found out he served overseas for three years, dug fighting holes in occupied Berlin, got into bar fights in France, and spent time in Wales. He talked about going and coming, his Army buddies and training, but never got into the stuff I really wanted to know. Had he ever killed anybody....

When I got back from Iraq, and saw my grandpa, we talked about war again. However, we talked about it in a different manner than we had years earlier. We talked about the places we saw and the friends we gained. We bypassed the death and shooting. Our wars were sixty years apart but weren't really any different. It didn't matter how many years separated our wars or where we traveled to fight them. Blood still dried the same way around wounds and charred bodies still crusted over the same as they always have. It didn't matter that he'd fought in a "good war" and I fought in a controversial war; because the effect turned out to be the same: Neither of us could find anything praiseworthy about combat.

The Real World Brooklyn and Iraq

Today's combat veteran

A small-town Pennsylvania boy with a laid-back personality, Ryan has had his share of action. After enlisting in the army at the age of 17, he served in Iraq and got an eyeful. Now 23, he has returned from his duty with a newfound appreciation for life and a better perspective on the world around him, despite having lived through many near-death experiences, as well as the death of a close friend. A class clown who juggles his time between amateur filmmaking, guitar playing and pranking those around him, Ryan is currently in his first-ever relationship.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Soldier's Heart - The Movie

This is a touching movie about a Vietnam veteran with PTSD and the impact that the aftereffects of war has on his relationships. Soldier's Heart was the term originally used to describe the veterans of the Civil War and the symptoms they displayed, which included cardiac and anxiety physiological responses. This is an important film for returning veterans of all our recent wars.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sleeping With Enemy - German Children of WWII American Soldiers

This website details the large number of children born to German women post WWII who were fathered by American GIs. There were 67,000 by 1955 due to the occupation forces remaining in Germany. This is a little known story of children who often were raised in orphanages because of their paternal parentage. Those who remained with their mothers were taunted and mocked.
The legacy of World War II was long and harsh for many of these children.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hand Me Down Hurt

Written by a physician, this article discusses second hand trauma and the mechanics of transmission of PTSD from parent to child. Some of the symptoms such as anxiety and hyperarousal are recognizable in the children of war veterans.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Soft Spots: A Marine's Memoir of Combat and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

An excerpt from a new book, out in March 2009, which is a poignant and shattering story of PTSD in our new generation of veterans.

From Soft Spots
Clint Van Winkle
March 2009

We’d been told it would be a good idea to write a “death letter” in case we didn’t make it home alive. The First Sergeant said we should write the letter to our loved ones: wife, children, parents, or whoever. It didn’t need to be long, just a memo that would give the family closure in case we died on the battlefield.

He was brief, just told us to write, address them, and then to hand the envelopes over to him. He’d make sure they made it to where they needed to go once you stepped on a mine, got shot by a friend, or were blown apart by a rocket propelled grenade. Eighteen-year-old Marines had to drop their superman acts and face the truth of war--people die. As if a letter was going to make anyone feel better. We were left to ponder our young lives, to sum it up on notebook paper, then seal it in an envelope. No stamp required. The government would pay for that.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Combat Related Stress Can Last a Lifetime

This USA Today article discussed the lifelong impact of war on World War II veterans who were not given any help for their war trauma. PTSD was not a recognized diagnosis until 1980 when therapists realized they were seeing more and more Vietnam veterans with the same constellation of symptoms. A daughter found her World War II father in a VA hospital after years of searching for him. Her mother had forbidden the children to mention his name after he was institutionalized. click on title for link

Friday, January 16, 2009

Saving Private Ryan and my father

This video is a portion of "Into the Breach" featured at the beginning of the Saving Private Ryan DVD.

The veteran with the oxygen tubing is my father.