PTSD from WWII to Now: What’s Being Done?

Dr. Fred Eichelman

A frightening statistic seems to be continually ignored publicly. It is a killer taking lives daily: Every day twenty two veterans are killing themselves, largely victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

We did not hear much about this until a few years ago and it is more widely spread as a threat despite having been around for many years. Likely going back all through history. 

The following is a true story with names changed only to protect the privacy of the families involved. It is a painful story to tell.  

In the late 1930’s in one of our larger cities, there was a young boy from Tennessee who was homeless and the police wanted to do something for him before he got into trouble. They contacted a business man who, being in charge of a credit department, had worked with them in the past. They asked this man, Al Bernard, if he could find employment and a home for the boy who was named Bob. 

It just so happened that Al raised show dogs on the side, had a kennel and needed someone to took after them. Bob was only too happy to accept a job offering and accepted. Al and Ann fixed a room in their basement and he moved in, once an orphan now with a real room of his own.

Bob did more than care for the dogs. The Bernards both had jobs but they also had a baby boy named Roger who needed to be babysat. It was a union made in Heaven as both, being only children, now each other. Bob made it a point to tell stories to and play with Roger every second he was not caring for the dogs.

Not that it was all work for Bob. When he walked the dogs it was on a street where there was a comely young lass named Christine and they often walked together, Another interest Bob had was movies, especially Western films where the heroes were bold and brave and always won. Guns seemed a way of life, a way of securing justice. 

Then in 1941 there was the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Bob was a patriot and had good examples in Al Bernard, who quit his high paying job to work in a defense plant. And Ann Bernard was a nurse who went to work for the Red Cross. He announced to his foster parents that since he was of age he wanted to join the marines so, somewhat regretfully, they consented. 

Over the next four years the only contact the Bernards had with Bob were the highly censored letters he wrote. All they knew was that he was covering a number of islands in the Pacific. Sometimes he would send pictures, including one of him with a puppy he rescued.

Finally the war ended and Bob came home just in time to have marriage to Christine, who had stayed loyal. Soon after Bob took part in a birthday party for Roger. At the party, Bob tearfully told a story of horrors that were to give the listeners information newsreels never showed. For the first time the family learned that Bob had been a prisoner of war, taken by the Japanese. He had been tortured, wounded and escaped, but helped comrades join him for which he received a medal. But as a Christian, killing was the most terrible part of war. He never thought he would ever have to kill someone, much less several people–and it greatly bothered his conscious. Bob gave every piece of equipment and all of his Marine materials to Roger as he never wanted to see them again. 

Christine’s brothers ran a trucking business and gave Bob a major job. Sadly the Bernards moved many states away and would not see much of Bob. The letters came mainly from Christine. They learned there were problems but never detailed.

Then in 1977, twelve years after the war in the Pacific ended, came terrible news: Bob had killed himself.

When the Bernards investigated they heard terrible stories from Christine and their four small children. We had never heard of or talked about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 1945 or 1977 but apparently Bob could never get over the nightmares and headaches or adjust to civilian life. He could not relate to his children or Christine who stayed loyal to him. It was too much to handle.

Today there are counseling and centers being built for our veterans, but it obviously is not enough. These men and women risked their lives for us and deserve more than this. We need to investigate in our communities what is being done for our men and women, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to get involved, donate, volunteer, do whatever it takes.

I hope to do a followup article on things being done or that can be done.

Dr. Fred Eichelman

Dr. Fred Eichelman is a retired teacher and a director for Point North Outreach, a Christian media organization. He recently had a book published, Faith, Family, Film-A Teacher's Trek. Fred is a former local Republican Committee chairman and has attended hundreds of conventions from political to science fiction. He sees the two as compatible. Fred also tells us he values very much a title we gave him since he could not be a PolitiChick. PolitiDude.

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