On Memorial Day, we honor those who died in American wars. But let me tell you a story about vets who lived – with the mental and physical wounds of combat.
My father was World War II navigator shot down in Poland and transferred to Stalag-VII-A Moosburg Bavaria. He returned home a broken man with PTSD, He never took a bus, drove a car or flew on a plane again for 50 years. His disability, went untreated 50 years. He worked as an advertising agent ala Mad Men and drank like Don Draper. Our family crumbled into a dysfunctional maelstrom, as most families of “wounded warriors” do without help.
Like most World War II vet he never sought help. They believed they fought the “good war”. After my mother died, followed by my brother’s death, I talked him into getting help through the VA. But the “the perfect storm” of 1989 flooded his whole house, just like Hurricane Sandy did again after it was sold. We lived on the bay off the Jersey Coast, since devastated by the rising ocean.
On the Christmas Eve, we got him an emergency flight to California with only his clothes and he moved in with us for 20 years, until his death. Was it a good move-?
It was a great move for us as a family and him as a PTSD-riddled vet.
He became the center of our family, transformed the distant removed father he had been. The great grandchildren and my children adored him and he loved them back. He was “Pop”.
This healing was in great part because of the VA GRECC program . I got him enrolled in VA Palo Alto GRECC program and they took care of his heath for 20 years, with the unmatched expertise of the VA program for aging vets. I cannot say enough about what a great service GRECC rendered him. After 50 years of no help, they showered him with superb preventative care, top-notch geriatricians, transportation, and financial support and at the end home care until he died.
So on Memorial Day, I would like to offer you my own journey with a veteran and remind you of the horrible struggle that living untreated veterans can go through- salted by the anguish visited on their families. One of the most remarkable parts of the VA is its GRECC program. So happy Memorial Day Dad and all families of veterans. This is a time to honor the dead and treat the living.
Hear me tell my own story below.