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In memory of Mother: Daddy's post-traumatic stress disorder part one

Daddy in World War II
Daddy in World War IIfamily album

Daddy was labeled as “an empty husk of a man, certainly not officer material,” before he was sent back to the United States from Cherbourg, France during World War II. Daddy had served 8 months in Cherbourg before he went to the hospital in February 1945. I never knew Daddy served in Cherbourg and that’s because he never talked about it. I gathered the information on Daddy, not directly from his Army service records, since his was destroyed in a fire among others, which occurred in the early 1970’s, but from his VA claim record.

My goal for obtaining information on Daddy, who passed away in July 2007, was to replace the medals he had earned during World War II. I had wanted my children to see their grandfather’s medals before we left Florida and headed back to our home in Virginia. But, the box that contained his medals was missing. My mother and three brothers knew nothing about the missing box.

Now, I had only seen his medals when I was a child and the same could be said for my brothers. So, instead of accusing them, Daddy may have sold his medals to get money when we were in dire straits. Regardless, of the fate of Daddy’s medals, I knew I could replace them if I had the right documentation and that lead me to Daddy’s VA claim form. Fortunately, what I needed was found within the confines of this record along with the discovery about Daddy’s involvement in Cherbourg and what actually caused Daddy’s nervous condition.

Daddy had died in a nursing home for veterans. During the four years he spent there, he had been given a number of prescribed drugs, enough to fill up a shopping bag. Some were known as being dangerous and were pulled off the shelves. Daddy appeared to be nothing more than a lab rat. Now, this information did not come from his VA claim form, but from his medical records which arrived in a large, white box. It took several months of careful reading to determine how Daddy actually died, since his cause of death was “unknown.” I believe his death had much to do with taking a dangerous drug and Daddy had certainly taken a variety of these drugs for various afflictions. Since Daddy was 92 years old when he passed, no one was interested in taking the case. However, I kept on trying, until the time to file a medical lawsuit in the state of Florida ran out.

Ironically, Daddy died from something he had tried to avoid before he entered the VA nursing home and that was pharmaceutical drugs. But, he was not given much of a choice, just like in the 1960’s when he returned to the Veteran’s Administration needing help. After he returned from the war, suffering from post-traumatic, stress disorder, he seemed to improve. Daddy started his own construction company and was able to build a house for him and Mother. But, Daddy could not forget what took place in Cherbourg.

According to Daddy’s military service records found in his VA claim form, he was in combat for 8 months in the Battle of Cherbourg. Below is a short (archival) footage of Cherbourg during World War II, just before the American planes bombed certain coordinates of the area:

I can still remember him screaming about falling bombs which woke me up out of a sound sleep. I guess my two older brothers slept through the loud screaming, because they never mentioned it, while my younger brother was still in diapers and knew nothing of it. Mother had to move out of their bedroom and began to sleep in my room. Back then, we were not familiar with the term, “post-traumatic, stress-disorder.”

Daddy lost his company and we nearly lost our home. We knew what it meant to live off of Welfare. Every month we would go down and pick up our monthly food rations. I remember looking in the boxes hoping for more than canned goods, powdered milk, cheese and cereal.

When I read all of the paperwork contained in Daddy’s VA claim folder, I discovered just how poor we were, before Daddy was declared 100 percent disabled by the Veteran’s Administration. Documentation clearly showed we were just barely surviving as a family when it came to food, shelter and clothing, and that Daddy was eating much less than what a grown man would need. Daddy did not want to take food out of his children’s mouths. But, somehow, Daddy managed to keep his visits with the psychiatrist, despite the fact that Daddy was nearly penniless and starving!

Eventually, Daddy was declared 100 percent disabled by the Veteran’s Administration, but it came with a price. All four of his children were already grown. Our childhoods were shattered always worrying about not having enough food or money to pay necessary expenses. More importantly, why did Daddy take so many psychotropic drugs, such as Librium, and Ritalin hoping to get better? He believed whatever he had been told by his psychiatrist, who described Daddy as a, “morose, lugubrious, pessimistic man whom life has passed by,” he should take so he could get better.

Every month, Daddy’s psychotropic drugs arrive in a large, padded brown envelope by mail, which he took faithfully. However, there were different times during the day when he took his medications, as well as some he was supposed to stop taking and slowly get weaned from. It was all too confusing for Daddy and he asked for help from his psychiatrist. As noted in his clinical record, the psychiatrist stated, “The only way to straighten out the problem is to have him return to all the medication.” But, Daddy saw through this. Since Daddy had experience certain withdrawal symptoms, he did not want to experience them again. Daddy went cold turkey. No more psychotropic drugs!

Since Daddy’s financial income had improved dramatically, as one receiving 100 percent disability from the Veteran’s Administration, he was able to afford better nutritional food and began taking a morning stroll for exercise. Daddy had confided in me saying, “If I had known what I know now, I would never have taken unnecessary drugs. It’s important to eat the right foods because it makes a difference.”

Even though, this may sound condescending, I truly do respect the Veteran’s Administration, because without this organization, I would not be where I am today. I would never have been able to rise above poverty and obtain a college education. But, like with any organization, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch. Fortunately, when one can remove the bad apple in time, one can easily prevent spoilage.

The condition of post-traumatic, stress-disorder or PTSD is certainly difficult to treat and I am no medical expert. However, I do know that this condition is not new for a soldier coming back from war. I am sure there were treatments, since countries have fought for centuries. Perhaps the answer can be found in using a holistic approach, such as eating the right foods and getting the right amount of exercise. In addition, perhaps certain herbs can help such as catnip, ginseng, kava kava, licorice, peppermint, and vervain. These herbs have a history of helping with neurological disturbances.

It is critical that our country ‘step up to the plate’ in helping those soldiers suffering from PTSD to regain their life back and do some research in the areas of nutritional therapy. It is never too late to start. Age should not matter. Everyone has the right to live their life to the fullest, especially those who have served our country. After all, the United States is the land of freedom and opportunity and we would not have these amiable rights if it were not for our military.