My dad was 17 years old and newly enlisted in the Navy when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was unharmed except for when he was assigned to recover bodies from the ocean wearing a divers suit. It had led in the shoes which allowed him to be dropped overboard and the weight would pull him to the floor of the ocean. On his head was a heavy spaceship type helmet that had a hose that ran to the ship where air could be pumped down all owing him to breath under water. He had no experience as a diver when they ordered him into the suit.
He told me he was terrified of drowning but what he saw was even more horrific. He would see hundreds of bodies floating around him. Their eyes were open starring off into the darkness. The waters were hot from the fires that still burned on the ships that had been bombed. He would see a body and reach down to pull it toward the service where others waited to pull them ashore. As he grabbed their arm the flesh would peal off in his hands. He said he threw up in his helmet and was pulled up to clean himself up and then was sent back down into the depths of the waters again. He had many memories of near death experiences. Another time, working as a Boiler Operator on THE SOFTLY, his ship was bombed and the boiler room was flooded. Again he thought he was going to die. The solution to the ship sinking? They ran in reverse and ended up going to the Philippines where they "hid" until repairs could be made.
Every December 7th, I am reminded of growing up with my father. I watched him suffer with PTSD all his life. As a toddler we were told never to wake dad up from his dreaming because we could be punched by him as he struck out at imagined terrors. When I was sent into his room I would crawl across the wood floor to the side of his bed. I would lay low to the floor and reach up and tap him on his arm. This way when he swung it had no connection with me. Had he lived (he was a cancer survivor and died at 63 of a massive heart attack while at work) he would have been 95 years old.
Living with PTSD and with someone who has PTSD is terrifying. The one who has it is fearful of hurting those around them. The ones who are with them are fearful of the anger and pain that can result from an outburst of uncontrolled actions and words. Everyone suffers when PTSD is in the home. This is why it is my personal mission to help as many PTSD suffers as possible. Those who suffer from the wars, from rape, and from abandonment all suffer similar symptoms. They all hurt others. They all hurt themselves. Some die at their own hands.
May we never forget the sacrifices of those innocent lives lost and the wounds that linger today in our soldiers. During this holiday season, please consider giving a small gift to Encouragers Counseling & Training Centers so we can continue to serve others.