PTSD is a touchy subject. My assignment was to collect stories on how men and women were dealing with their PTSD on a personal basis. All for the benefit of others, who are diagnosed with PTSD, to read and know they are not alone. During this book pilgrimage, I’m afraid I may have offended a few folks with the mere mention of the word. What I discovered was that for every ten people who had nothing to say, I eventually found one or two that did.
I can’t tell you what an honor it has been to listen to the contributors and help them write their story! They reminisced like it was yesterday, recalling intimate details as they spoke. Sometimes painful, sometimes difficult. Other times during the interviews, I saw a sparkle in their eye, or heard a chuckle in their voice. It was like they had made a mental decision in their mind that no matter what, they preserved and are now happy in their lives.
PTSD is everywhere. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition. According to an online description, it occurs after a person experiences a ‘traumatic’ event, such as an assault, warfare, serious injury or terrifying occurrence. Before we gave it a name, PTSD for soldiers was referred to as ‘shell-shock’ or ‘battle fatigue’. Symptoms can include anything from disturbing flashbacks to recurrent nightmares, and affect the functioning of everyday life. Camo-wearing soldiers are not the only ones afflicted with PTSD. It is an equal opportunity condition that goes beyond the battlefield and nudges itself into the lives of Police Officers and Public Servants, victims of serious crimes and people who suffered traumatic situations in their lives, just to name a few. Although doctors may prescribe medications to treat PTSD, they can only treat the SYMPTOMS.
Lynn Hubbard owner of Lemon Press Publishing, had an idea that would offer people a chance to share what they’ve been through with their own personal PTSD, in an effort to help others. The result is this book, a compilation of stories by men and women, expressed in their own views, raw, unfiltered and frankly ‘no hold barred.’ Their words offer hope and encouragement to not only the reader, but conducts as a form of therapy to the writer as well.
We civilians live in a rose colored world, a bubble, safe from the war zones that our soldiers see on a daily basis. The only way for us to have an inkling of an idea of what a soldier goes through on a tour of duty is by reading a book or watching a Hollywood movie. How can we fully understand something we do not feel? Perhaps by reading the stories, we can get a glimpse inside the anatomy of PTSD.
When telling me his story, one man explained it like this - PTSD is not something you can generally see with your eyes. Some soldiers come home with lost limbs or scars, and you immediately know what’s wrong with them. You feel for their loss, you grieve for their misfortune. But, when you have PTSD, an invisible condition, you feel embarrassed and guilty because your body is whole. You want to block it out, hide it and pretend it doesn’t exist, or deny the fact that you have it.
While Lynn and I were preparing our thoughts about the book, we asked to meet with Patriot Guard Riders members, Ron “Pappy” Papaleoni and Tom Walsh, for their input. At the meeting, I was quoting the statistics I had gathered from government websites pertaining to PTSD. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, over 100,000 vets are homeless and living on the streets and almost half of them are diagnosed with PTSD. According to the PTSD Foundation of America, 1 in every 3 U.S. Soldiers returning home today are diagnosed with PTSD. “Under estimated,” Pappy told me, shaking his head. “Everyone is effected one way or another when they serve. Everyone.” And, he is right.
Trying to put a number on veterans with PTSD is like trying to count the stars on a clear summer night. There are just so many, and sooner or later, you just get lost in the count. Suicides are increasing every day at an alarming rate. The lack of understanding, insufficient treatments, along with misidentification of PTSD are all contributing factors.
When I was a teenager in high school, I bought a POW/MIA metal bracelet for $3.00. The concept was to wear the bracelet until the soldier, whose name was engraved on it, returned home. I had a math teacher who spent the entire hour of class discussing the war in Vietnam. I remember the protests and war scenes on TV, and although there were plenty of things I didn’t understand, there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think about those boys over there. Some from families I knew personally. I did the only thing I knew to do to show I cared - I wore the bracelet.
That is why I accepted the assignment from Lynn to help with the writing of this book. It gave me the opportunity to get involved again and actually do something to make a difference. The men I interviewed will always remain close to my heart. God bless them all.
I go back to thinking about those scenes on television in the early ‘70’s, the protestors in opposition to the war in Vietnam. “Draft beer, not boys” and “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” It made me angry. I would stare at the bracelet on my wrist and wonder how ‘my’ soldier was feeling at that very minute. If he was safe. If he was alive. I pondered what it was going to be like for him when (and if) he returned home.
My son, Paden, enlisted in the Army during his 11th grade of high school. I was so proud of him. That summer, he and his friend, Brandon, left for basic training in South Carolina. They were young boys, barely had turned seventeen years old. When they returned home from training, they proudly wore their Army fatigues to the local mall (admittedly with the intent of impressing the opposite sex!) What they encountered was not what they expected. An elderly, well dressed woman approached them. She voiced her displeasure and wrath of seeing the young soldiers in uniform by spitting on them and calling them names. Paden told me later, that he and Brandon stood there, wiped the spit off and told the woman, “Ma’am, it’s because of Soldiers like us, you have the freedom of speech to say what you just said.”
Our Country stands strong because our men and women fought and died for the freedom we have today. It only takes a second, to greet a veteran or soldier, and tell him how much you appreciate his service. No, a simple acknowledgment won’t prevent PTSD, or cure PTSD, but a little courtesy goes a long way. Remembrance is something we cannot allow to go out of style, lest their sacrifices were in vain.
PTSD is not going away. It won’t disappear just because no one wants to talk about it. Apparently, (from the stories I’ve been told) the treatment and ‘pills’ can only do so much. Each person has to find their own individual way to confront their emotions and stress, to adapt and overcome. This book is only the beginning.
The goal of Lynn Hubbard and Lemon Press Publishing, is to donate a copy of NO APOLOGIES to every VA hospital in the United States. It will be funded by public sales, with proceeds used for the hospital distributions.
Everyone has a story. Maybe now is the time to write yours. You don’t have to be a prolific writer, and if you prefer, you don’t have to write at all. We will write it for you. If you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, or believe you have it, we’ve left several blank pages at the end of this book. When you feel like writing your thoughts, fill in the pages. We will be collecting more PTSD stories for future volumes. Contact Lemon Press Publishing to submit yours. There is always someone out there that needs to hear what YOU have to say.
Cindy is the author of several books (Time in Contention, A Cowgirl’s Taste for Life, Cowboy World children’s series) and a Country/Western Singer/Songwriter. She’s a member of the Western Music Association, The Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame, The Georgia Country and Gospel Music Association, the Single Action Shooting Society and the Patriot Guard Riders.