Tag Archives: Post WWII military families

Child Abuse, Neglect and Maltreatment on the Rise in Military Families…

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Stressed out Military Families need Support… A child abuse epidemic?  Quote from this website… Click on informative video clip!

“Of the 29,552 cases of child abuse and neglect in active-duty Army families from 2003 through 2012, according to Army Central Registry data, 15,557 were committed by soldiers, the others by civilians — mostly spouses.”

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The above quote from this site and story could have easily come from the 1950’s, post WWII and Korean War.  We didn’t have any awareness growing up as military kids from the boomer generation.  A toxic home life and scary circumstances connected to our family culture persisted without relief until it was time to leave home at age 17 to join the US Navy.  Following are my reflections of home life as a military child…

I have many vivid memories of violence in our home during the 1950’s and early 1960’s.  My father was self medicated and angry most of the time and we never understood any of it…we were just scared all the time.  My mother was stressed out and never understood his outbursts and panic attacks either.  We woke up in the middle of the night to Dad’s nightmares reliving his combat experiences in the South Pacific while serving in the US Navy.   My parents would fight well into the evening hours making it difficult to go to sleep.  Mom did all she could do to just get through each day.  We siblings became a secondary priority and mostly neglected, except we always had food on the table.  The local public school was one of the only escapes during the day.  We felt isolated and ashamed like we were always doing something bad or looked stupid to others.  There was little or no encouragement or support at home for our school work because of the challenges of our parents in dealing with their own issues.  We didn’t talk about our experiences at home to other kids for fear of the consequences of our parents finding out.  We lied to teachers and coaches when they asked questions concerning our own sad and angry behaviors.  We moved often so were unable to make lasting friendships that made a difference.  We were hesitant to bring friends home for fear of unexpected angry outbursts and toxic behaviors in our home.  It was a blessing to spend time at the home of friends and their families where we could see love and kindness, and wished it for our home.

The pattern of child abuse is the same today, but we do have far more awareness and treatment strategies, including criminal action in the worse cases, to mitigate the sad circumstances of a toxic home.  The health of children can be affected for a lifetime from early child abuse and maltreatment.  Awareness is clearly the path to healing for survivors of trauma.  Education is the best solution to help parents become aware of how children are damaged and carry the emotional baggage into adulthood.

A third non-fiction book, My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 2, is almost ready to be released.  Following is an excerpt from the book by way of introduction…

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Introduction: It has been almost 4 years since publishing my first nonfiction book, Reconciliation:  A Son’s Story, November 2011.   My personal path of healing and mitigation of the “ball and chain” of life-long symptoms of anxiety and depression, takes me back to children living and growing up in a toxic home.   The ideal time to save kids from the emotional baggage carried forward as a result of child abuse and maltreatment connected with toxic parenting is from the very beginning.  When parents become abundantly aware of how their parenting behaviors affect children and the detrimental life-long damage of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), they often become highly motivated to get help for themselves to save the kids if for nothing else.

Healing is about making a difference for others.  In the case of denial and ignorance on the part of parents who suffer from PTS, outrageous behaviors and angry outbursts, including physical abuse toward family members and loved ones, especially children, is common.  It’s too easy to pick on the loved ones in your life as a way to vent, but it is not always clear how much emotional damage is being done.  If parents knew the consequences of intergenerational PTS by inflicting emotional and physical pain onto children and family members, they would march down to the nearest alternative treatment center immediately and learn how to mitigate the symptoms effectively and begin the journey of healing.  In my experience and view, there would be no hesitation on the part of parents and adults if they had a higher level of awareness.  We could eventually break the intergenerational cycle of pain in a couple of decades if we started with our own kids very early.  Extensive research has shown babies will pick up on toxic circumstances and behaviors and demonstrate post trauma stress symptoms as they become older.

The goal of My Journey of Healing, Part 2 is to specifically help parents with stress triggers to save their kids from becoming emotionally damaged during these critical years from birth to age 18.  Most of the content comes from my own research, resources, references, and experience as a survivor of child abuse and maltreatment.  Since publishing my first book, I have kept up writing consistently on my blog and website www.survivethriveptsd.com.  I will use the compilation of short essays on my blog as the primary reference point since it focuses almost completely on children and families in life after trauma.  I have been writing on this subject for a long time.  It is now the right time to consolidate and integrate all the postings into a single reference book designed as a guide for parents who are survivors of traumatic life events, including hard combat as a warrior, sole survivors of an accident, and victims of assault and rape.  The painful symptoms of PTS can take on a life of their own if not treated effectively.  More importantly, the symptoms will have a consequential secondary effect on loved ones and children in particular.  Parents are solely responsible for protecting their children and will be highly motivated to do so once understanding the terrible consequences of exposing children to a home culture affected by life after trauma.”

Understanding Child Traumatic Stress from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) is a painful read but highly useful in becoming more aware of how children respond to trauma.  The good news…more often than not child survivors of abuse, maltreatment, and neglect grow up with a high level of compassion, a motivation to succeed, and a desire to make a difference in the world.  This does not take away from the critical need to do all you can to love and care for your children as if your own life is at stake.  I feel blessed about my life at this point, but do envy the families who are free of post traumatic stress in their lives.  I worry most about the children who can suffer for a life-time from growing up in a violent home culture…

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1… Click highlighted text for my author page…

 

 

 

The U. S. Navy’s “Phantom” World War II Hospitals… Where combat weary veterans recuperated and transitioned…coming home…

U. S. Naval Hospital, Shoemaker, California (Photo source: NARA, College Park, MD)

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Click for larger view of Shoemaker US Naval Hospital…

 

“Originally designated “U. S. Naval Hospital, Pleasanton, California”, this 2000 bed hospital sprung up in a vast area of flat land a few miles east of the Oakland Hills of the San Francisco Bay Area. Originally intended to care for people attached to the nearby Construction Battalion Personnel Depot and a Navy Personnel Center, the hospital had 1,000 beds when it was commissioned 1 October 1943. Less than a year later, it had 2,000 official beds, but was capable of caring for nearly 3,600.  Post-war demobilization struck quickly, and the hospital was decommissioned 30 June 1946.”

Post WWII Psychiatric Diagnosis and Treatment for Combat Veterans….  Quote from this website article by Defense Media Network…

“Commonly used therapies in VA hospitals (i.e., US Naval Hospital Shoemaker) during early post WWII years were shock treatments – insulin and electric. Insulin shock was induced when patients received large doses of insulin over a period of weeks, causing daily comas that supposedly would shock the patient’s system out of mental illness.  Electric shock operated on a similar principle of disordering the mind and jolting the veteran out of his emotional distress by electrodes sending electric currents to the brain.”

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My father, Vernon, along with tens of thousands of combat weary veterans came home in 1945, the end of WWII, 70 years ago.  Coming home was not always a celebration for many who were injured physically and emotionally.  Back then they considered “combat stress or battle fatique” to be as serious as being in a state of complete exhaustion and mental stress that required “recuperation.”  Like Dad, most who were considered in bad shape were sent to one of many “phantom”  WWII hospitals for weeks of treatment before being allowed to go home or to be visited by loved ones.  My mother, Marcella, spoke of this time as a very anxious and worrisome period of excitement for Dad’s return home, but fear about his physical and mental condition.  I recall her saying, “we didn’t get to celebrate like others when the war was over.”  This was a time long before medical and mental health science could clearly diagnose Post Traumatic Stress (PTS/PTSD) symptoms that lingered long after the war, often for a lifetime.  When a WWII veteran was actually diagnosed with a severe psychiatric condition, it was considered a non-service related mental health disorder…pre-existing.   Most combat veterans of that time refused to talk about their feelings and concluded it was a problem that would eventually go away.  We know differently now, especially following the Vietnam War.

My father finally decided to get help during the 1980’s when PTSD was officially diagnosed as a combat related mental disorder.  And the good news…he started to get better over time with medications and psychiatric treatment.  It was a more positive time for us as a family and Dad appeared to be on his way to some reasonable peace of mind before he passed away in 1998.  Unfortunately, by the time we were adults, most of the severe damage and dysfunction to our family was done.  It was not until later in my own life that I was able to reconcile what happened to us as a post WWII military family by researching and writing my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.

Knowing the truth about how war affects the children and families of warriors has given me peace of mind as well.  It is now my labor of love to write about recovering from traumatic life events and to help others learn how to begin the lifelong process of healing.  We discovered as a post WWII family, it is never too late to start the journey of healing…  All the bottled up emotional pain is pure agony until we started to talk about the symptoms and to seek appropriate alternative treatment strategies…  Healing remains a work in progress for most who suffer from a traumatic life event…

Now, 70 years after the end of WWII, we honor the “Greatest Generation” by helping and supporting veterans of all wars who suffer from combat trauma…  As Americans and human beings we are finally getting past the stigma and denial connected with mental health…but we have a long way to go…

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…  Click highlighted text for my author page…

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Reconciliation: A Son’s Story by Steve Sparks, published November 2011…click the highlighted text for my author page…