A streak of anguish crosses the face. Terror burns in the
eyes. Heart and soul force a facial mask of guilt. Hunched
shoulders bear silent grief. Cold anger. The thousand-yard
stare. A psychological melt-down.
I saw it while
covering the Korean conflict as a war correspondent for the
old International News Service. The horror was then called
shell shock. It later reappeared during my reporting of the
revolutions in Algeria and the Dominican Republic – even
among children caught in the midst of firefights. The
illness spit out again among the blood-drenched jungle
trails of Vietnam. Psychiatrists finally called the mental
seizure post-traumatic stress disorder.
realize that PTSD is still a mystery to most doctors and
psychiatrists. This is despite the fact that they have
treated thousands of GIs returned from the Vietnam war with
one form or another of PTSD. Some without success.
returned from Algeria with PTSD. My eyes were constantly
I was shaken to the core whenever I heard
abrupt, loud noises. I would close my eyes to blunt a
feeling of angry fierceness until the clamor stopped. On
opening them, I could not face anyone. I was ashamed. Why?
Because abrupt noises turned my mind back to when I was
covering some wild scene in combat. I had leaped from the
streets of Rome, where I was newly stationed, to some
misbegotten corner of Algiers. With the help of my wife,
Joy, and our family doctor, the blinking stopped after six
months of rationalization and humble prayer.
decided to study PTSD in depth. What better place to do it
than Vietnam. ABC News, for which I was then working,
assigned me to old Saigon. I soon landed with the U.S.
Marines from the Mekong River into a jungle so thick that
one could make out only the immediate squad in front and
back. That was where I began my combat notes on PTSD. They
would climax when I was later transferred to Washington
where I interviewed various psychiatrists and wounded at
Walter Reed Army Medical Center and elsewhere.
Losing self is the most common strain among victims. They
challenge parents, brothers and sisters as well as close
Some go berserk and strike out at their
families. In desperation, the mother asks if her son should
be confined to a state asylum. The entire family is ripped
apart in what appears to be a hopeless situation.
Parents and others would be better off if they realized that
their reactions are normal in abnormal circumstances. It
takes time to understand and deal with PTSD. Timeless
efforts are often critical.
In order for families and
others to comprehend PTSD, I wrote a book called "INVISIBLE
WOUNDS". It is a novel because most of those interviewed said
they would speak more frankly if their names were not used.
It was a reasonable request and I agreed.
The book is
set in Algeria and Vietnam. The action is true. Only names
have been changed. The blood, killing, revenge, and
nightmares . . .are all there. The purpose is to explain the
magnitude of combat to those who have never witnessed it. To
cast a light on soldiers' deepest feelings – even suicide --
but, at the same time, portray the characteristics of
There are no clear answers about
many who have lived with PTSD. Some GIs clean themselves of
it while others fight the illness decades.
Counseling is one answer. A strong will is another. And for
some souls, prayer has been the road of deliverance. So too
is belief in America – wearing the flag inside your heart.
Author's Note: While my
WOUNDS", is now out of print, about 100 copies of the book
are still available for $7.00, which includes free delivery.
Please email me if you would like to order one of the remaining
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