Honoring an American Hero: “Gene Curtis Sharratt U.S. Army, Vietnam, Paratrooper, 173rd Airborne, Sgt. E-5, 1967-1969 (Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medals)”

I am honored and privileged to share Gene Sharratt’s story on this Memorial Day weekend.  Gene’s experience as a combat veteran from the Vietnam War, and early research on the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or combat stress, including readjustment to civilian life, is significant and historical.  What is most relevant to me in my own research, and writing my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, is how Gene lives his life.  Gene begins each day thinking of how he is going to help someone else and goes about each day making a difference in very positive ways.  Gene has been an inspiration to me for 15 years, and is a close friend and mentor.

My dear friend and mentor, Gene Sharratt, has never talked about his Vietnam combat experience.  He does, however, on rare occasions mention his time in Vietnam leading men into battle, in the context of how he lives his life.  In fact, Gene’s 12 page resume, including his amazing contributions to kids and public education in the State of Washington shows the title of this blog posting in one line on page 12.  Gene learned very early as a Vietnam combat veteran about the pain and horror of war, but he also discovered very early that his focus in life each day is about hope and what he can do to help others.  Gene also learned very early, long before others, about combat stress and PTSD.  His 1983 Doctor of Philosophy dissertation is entitled, An Analysis of Occupational Stress Reported by Vietnam Era Veteran Educators in Washington State.

As Superintendent of North Central ESD, Gene, helped organize and lead a POW reunion, Honor by Listening Project, which included publishing the stories of 14 amazing war veterans and former POWs from the Vietnam War.  The project resulted in the 2001 publication, Returning with Honor: Stories of American Heroes.  Ken Zontek and his Cashmere High School students at the time spent four years on the Honor by Listening project to help record and write the powerful and moving stories in this publication. One essay in particular is unique, describing the life of children of a POW.  The final essay is from an interview of Dr. Robert Mitchell who conducts medical analysis of the former POWs.

Gene Sharratt’s life is remarkable and an inspiration to all who know him.  His philosophy comes alive every day while he does the work he loves, helping others succeed and achieve their dreams.  Gene believes strongly that the pain of war is kept in its proper place in life after war when each day is dedicated to helping others.  I can tell you from my own experience that Gene’s life work and personal philosophy represents the optimum formula for long term healing from traumatic events like war.  Gene will tell you that he works hard every day to keep his focus on the greater good and his passion for education.  As long as each day includes the rewards of making a difference for others, the pain of war stays a safe distance away from Gene’s heart and mind.  The positive high energy gained through his philosophy and life style sets an example for the journey of maintaining a happy, healthy, and productive life after war.
Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

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