Tag Archives: Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Children’s Trust of MA is a Gift for Children & Families…Protect & Preserve the Journey of Childhood…

Pink_Background

The Gift of a Smile from your Child…

about the children’s trust

The Children’s Trust is Massachusetts’ leading family support organization. We strengthen the Commonwealth by funding and managing parenting support programs designed to help families raise physically and emotionally healthy children.

With support from the Children’s Trust, young children across Massachusetts can grow up in nurturing families and communities, healthy and ready to succeed.

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I signed up to receive daily Twitter messages on my smartphone from https://twitter.com/trust4kids in 2011 when my first book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, was published by Signalman Publishing.  It was at this time that my life changed forever.  My own journey of healing in life after trauma kicked in like no other time in my life!

Since then, the daily Tweets, including the above “Childhood is a Journey” graphic, come to me from @trust4kids as an instant reminder of why it is critical for parents, teachers, and mentors to give the gift of childhood to our kids from the very moment of birth, especially in those early years to age 6.  The research and practical experience shows that after age 6, children have a wired framework for moral values.  Once a kid reaches age 6 and beyond, changing behaviors from a toxic world to a healthy disposition is a retrofit challenge for a very long time…  In my case, it took 64 years of my life to labor through depression, anxiety, and anger to achieve a lasting peace of mind.

In addition to robust social media resources, local early childhood and after-school or out-of-school programs like Neighbors for Kids in Depoe Bay, Oregon help children and families build a healthy kick-start for kids.  My work and passion in life is advocacy for the healthy minds and bodies of children.  Give your child the gift of peace of mind in the beginning by nurturing emotional strength, early learning opportunities, and healthy social interactions with peers and adults.  It definitely takes more than one parent and one family to build a healthy foundation for all children…it is in a healthy community where kids thrive…

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1 & 2…  Click the highlighted text for my author page…

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Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, and Child Advocate

April…Child Abuse Awareness Month! “Let’s raise children who won’t have to recover from their childhoods.” ~Pam Leo

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“Stigma refers to negative attitudes (prejudice) and negative behavior (discrimination) towards people with substance use and mental health problems.” Chris Currie’s blog from HealthyPlace.com.

 

The Fear and Denial of Mental Health Stigma… Quote from this article from Heathlyplace.com

by Andrea Paquette  by Andrea Paquette

“Mental health stigma knows no bounds and is constantly on the move. It can catch you in the workplace or in the classroom. It can interfere with making friends and can even interfere with keeping friends. But since stigma has to begin with a negative attitude or prejudice, if we can lessen the prejudice, we should in theory be able to lessen the discrimination.

People fear what they don’t understand. And let’s face it, mental health has only recently begun to even be an acceptable topic of conversation. Unfortunately, for many, it is still a topic that sends shivers down spines but it doesn’t have to stay that way. By simply talking about it, we normalize it. I have a feeling that, eventually, people will start to understand.

I never told any friends, coworkers or even romantic partners that I had been hospitalized against my will for over four months for drug-induced psychosis. I never told them that I was once again hospitalized for several months for major depression. Why? Because of stigma.”

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Memories are still vivid of a painful childhood growing up in a toxic home.  I struggled and managed to thrive with the heavy burden of emotional baggage from the 1950’s and early 1960’s until much later in life.  Why did I wait so long to confront my past?  Fear and denial followed me from the very moment I learned in 1965 that a potential employer would not hire me because my U.S. Navy honorable discharge document (DD214) included a “code” indicating a less than stable mental health condition.  I was labeled a risk at age 20 and it scared the hell out of me!

I am grateful now later in life to have been able to move on with another company in the telecommunications business and enjoyed a very successful and exciting career.  I was able to complete my college education as well and eventually retired in 2002.  I wonder why any young person with a mental health diagnosis would ever reveal their condition or seek treatment…  Many of us who survive traumatic experiences in life, march on one day at a time for many years until we have the courage to start the process of healing or when it is safe.  I took the safe route until age 64, and it was indeed painful journey…

“Stigma is a self fulfilling prophecy,” they say…  It has been 4 years since publishing my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  After all the research and writing on the subject of PTS/PTSD, including this blog with close to 800 postings offering tons of information about my own experience, references and resources with the goal to help others, the human condition of STIGMA leaves me stoned cold and in a quandary.  It is clear that we should all seek treatment immediately following a moral injury and living with the awful symptoms of depression and anxiety, including panic attacks.  But it would be dishonest for me to suggest to anyone who fears losing opportunities and dreams of career success, especially loving relationships and spiritual growth in life, to ever admit a mental health challenge.

I am still searching for the right answer to help younger people, especially those who served America in hard combat or as a first responder.  My prayer and hope is that someday, probably not in my lifetime, that our culture and society will see that stigma is something from our distant past.  I pray that the millions of children and families who suffer from mental illness will be treated without prejudice and will have no fear in seeking meaningful long term treatment and begin the journey of healing.  No human being should have to carry forward the burden of an invisible and life threatening mental illness to one generation and the next.  Lives are at risk while we come to terms with STIGMA…the Germanwings tragedy will haunt all of us forever.  Will the lessons learned lead us to healing as a human society and diversified cultures or will it reinforce the fear and denial connected with mental health STIGMA?

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

 

A post WWII family's struggle with moral injury and PTSD

Reconciliation: A Son’s Story…A post WWII family’s struggle with moral injury and PTSD.

 

 

“Mommie, Why Is Daddy So Mad All The Time?” Children need to know it is not their fault?

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Steve Sparks, Age 10, 1956… “”Why is Dad so mad and angry all the time?”

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Why Is Dad So Mad… Click on the highlighted text to order this book or from my sidebar….

by Seth Kastle (Author)

 

“Why is Dad so Mad”  click on this ground breaking video clip right now…

‘Why Is Dad So Mad?’ Veteran Writes Book to Explain His PTSD to His Daughter

Quote from the video transcript…

“In “Why Is Dad So Mad?” a family of lions — representing the Kastle family — is battling to overcome the father lion’s PTSD. In the book’s colorful pages, the father lion is shown with a raging fire inside his chest. That image, and its message, made an impact on Kastle’s 6-year-old daughter, Raegan.”

“No matter what, when they’re mad or sad at you, they still love you,” explained Raegan, admiring her father’s book in her playroom. “There’s always a fire in his heart, but no matter what, I know there’s love.”

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When my buddy Byron called me to share his discovery of this new children’s book, I was excited!  Most books are written for adults, like my own non fiction publication, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story…  For the first time since the 1950’s, during the most challenging times as a military child growing up with a father who suffered from the horrors and WWII and Korean War, I remembered vividly the question we all asked daily, “why is dad so mad and angry all the time?”

We never got an answer to that question while growing up.  But I remember asking the question out loud to my mother, brothers and sister just about every day and with self talk.  If I had known back then that Dad had a “fire in his chest” caused by exposure to the trauma of war, it would no doubt have been a blessing for the entire Sparks family.  But we did not know how to talk about it without being pushed back and asked to mind our own business.  Sometimes just asking the question made our parents even more anxious with angry outbursts and sometimes beatings to suggest it what wrong for us to ask questions.  I know we persisted and very much wanted to understand as children about the toxic circumstances in our home.  It was not until later in life that I took a leap of faith and started to find out on my own through research and writing my own book for adults to help us heal.

A book for children is a critical step in the right direction.  It is tough to talk about the subject of PTS/PTSD among ourselves as adults, let alone figuring out how to discuss this emotional subject with kids.  Just listening to the video of the child’s interaction with her father, reinforces the value of writing illustrated books for children on the subject of post trauma symptoms and treatment.  I can’t wait to get the book in my hands and start a campaign to write more books for kids that help see that parents who suffer from post trauma symptoms of anger and other scary behaviors still love their children and it is not the child’s fault.  I left home at age 17 with the perception that all the troubles in our home while growing up fell on my shoulders…a heavy burden of emotional baggage to carry forward…

It is so important to figure out creative ways to help kids understand that parental anger and rage is most often not the fault of children.  If we don’t make them aware consistently of this critical fact, they will certainly grow up believing that for some reason that the angry behaviors and outbursts, including physical and mental abuse, was a result of something the child perpetrated.

If children do not understand the roots of parental toxic behavior, especially if it is related to moral injury from hard combat experience or other traumatic life events, they will surely take the emotional baggage into adult life and potentially affect the lives of loved ones, including their own children.  The intergenerational effects of PTS/PTSD are very real.  I live with the symptoms of PTS every day of my life, but now have peace of mind after discovering the roots of my own family’s troubled post WWII circumstances of life after war.

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

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Reconciliation: A Son’s Story by Steve Sparks, Signalman Publishing, November 2011…Click on the highlighted text to order book.

What are the “lessons learned” from the tragic death of little London McCabe? “There is ALWAYS another option than taking the life of your child!”

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London McCabe at age 6… “He loved hats and his Dad.”

 

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Yaquina Bridge, Newport, Oregon

 

Response to the tragic death of London McCabe  Quote from the blog post by Catonatrampoline: Autism, Parenthood, and Life…

“Responsibility. Down the line. From organisations to individuals. This is not a comprehensive review of all the factors, I don’t know all the details of the case, I never will, but I do know this: There are always ways that services could have done better, there are always signs that things are starting to go wrong, and there is ALWAYS another option than taking the life of your child.”

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I appreciated the opportunity to speak to the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC) in Lincoln County Oregon.  I started my talk about mental health emergency response and first aid by remembering the painful tragedy of little London McCabe, (click on highlighted text for previous post) who’s mother tossed her sweet little boy over the Yaquina Bridge in November of 2014.  I also related my own story of growing up in a toxic home during the 1950’s and early 1960’s, when at age 10 in 1956, I observed my older brother, age 15 at the time, getting punched with great force in his head by my father and knocked out…head swelling up like a football later. It was a miracle that my dear brother was not killed! My brother was not taken to the hospital at the time for fear my father’s US Navy career would be at risk, including his decorated WWII and Korean War service to America.  Of all the toxic, scary and painful childhood experiences in our troubled home, this is the one that triggers great sadness in my heart almost everyday of my life…

During my interaction with the very caring and passionate public service leaders in the meeting, I spoke of the need for a thorough “lessons learned” public investigation of the death of London McCabe.  It is not clear to me that we have started or completed such an investigation in a public venue with extensive awareness and actions that would lead us to mitigate the risk of a repeated tragedy in the future.  I am confident that everyone in Lincoln County and Newport, Oregon public service connected with police and mental health have done their individual investigations and have taken steps to improve emergency response and first aid to those who suffer from severe mental health challenges.  I listened to several officials in the meeting who discussed, with passion and emotion, the process of building a far more effective layer of emergency response that must be an alternative to calling “911” as the often too little, too late last resort.

As a City Councilor from Depoe Bay, Oregon representing the caring citizens of our town, I walked away encouraged.  But it is clear that we are not able to move as fast as everyone would prefer.  Our community is not unlike many rural areas in America in that we are often caught in a world of “silos” working feverishly in multiple departments of public safety and health, but not as a community force and together as a team, with the power to change up quickly to solve critical problems.

It is my goal going forward to continue being engaged with public safety and mental health resources to tackle the challenges of mental health first aid and emergency response as a whole community.  I also believe it would be profoundly healing and constructive to go back to the London McCabe tragedy to ensure that we have full comprehension of the lessons learned and community agreement on a faster and better path forward.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…

City Councilor, Depoe Bay, Oregon

Childhood Trauma…”It is not what is wrong with you, it is what happened to you…”

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Nadine Burke Harris’ healthcare practice focuses on a little-understood, yet very common factor in childhood that can profoundly impact adult-onset disease: trauma.

 

Lifelong effects of childhood trauma…  A powerful TED talk…

Filmed September 2014 at TEDMED 2014

Nadine Burke Harris: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime…

 

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Not unlike thousands of kids during the post WWII era, I grew up believing there was something wrong with me…  Abused children for whatever reason get stuck with the sad feelings of guilt and constant negative self talk, asking the same question over and over and over again, “what is wrong with me?”  This is a huge barrier to mental and physical health to carry forward in life until there is awareness then healing of a traumatic past.  Most of us survive and thrive carrying around baggage from past trauma, but not without life challenges, and in the worst case scenario severe and life threatening mental and physical health damage. 

I feel lucky and blessed to have discovered later in life the roots of my troublesome and nagging feelings of guilt and poor self confidence.   Although I have no regrets and live with a healthy perspective at this stage in my life…living with a traumatic past is painful.  You really have to work hard to pull up your boot straps each and every day and put forward one foot at a time.  It is a double down process of staying positive and focused on succeeding in life. 

Listen to Nadine Burke Harris and learn more about the lifelong mental and physical challenges of childhood trauma.  Her message will help you become and better parent and a trauma survivor.  Learning the value of awareness and treatment strategies can build a better quality of life, and even save lives.  We didn’t have this kind of awareness during my younger years.  I see now that it is a spiritual gift to know the roots of past traumatic life experiences, including child abuse and maltreatment.  I live today with a peace of mind that only came from my own reconciliation and desire to be free of the emotional baggage of childhood trauma…

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

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

 

Capturing Iwo Jima 70 Years Ago…Honoring the brave sailors of the USS Belle Grove LSD2…

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USS Belle Grove (LSD-2) at anchor, probably at Leyte, circa 20 to 22 October 1944. Photo by J.L. Brown.

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USS Belle Grove (LSD-2) undergoing sea trials in San Francisco Bay, 16 August 1943. US Navy photo from “Allied Landing Craft of World War Two”, published by Arms and Armour Press.

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War Cruise of the USS Belle Grove LSD2…click photo to expand view…

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Vernon H. Sparks, BMC, USS Belle Grove LSD2 WWII Pacific…click photo for larger view…

 

 

USS Belle Grove…7 Campaigns WWII South Pacific…

Ashland Class Dock Landing Ship:

  • Originally authorized as (APM-2), a Mechanized Artillery Transport
  • Reclassified Landing Ship Dock (LSD-2), 1 July1941
  • Laid down, 27 October 1942, at Moore Drydock Co. Oakland, CA.
  • Launched, 17 February 1943
  • Commissioned USS Belle Grove (LSD-2), 9 August 1943, LCDR. Morris Seavey, USNR, in command
  • During World War II USS Belle Grove was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater and participated in the following campaigns:


    World War II Campaigns
    Campaign and Dates Campaign and Dates
    Gilbert Islands operation 
    Makin Island, 20 November to 2 December 1943
    Leyte operation 
    Leyte Gulf landings, 20 October, 31 October to 9 November and 13 to 21 November 1944
    Marshall Islands operation 
    Occupation of Kwajalein and Majuro Atolls, 31 January to 8 February 1944
    Luzon operation 
    Lingayen Gulf landings – Abuyo and San Pedro Bay, 9 to 16 January 1945
    Marianas operation 
    Capture and occupation of Saipan, 15 to 28 July 1944
    Iwo Jima operation 
    Assault and capture of Iwo Jima, 19 February to 16 March 1945
    Tinian capture and occupation, 21 to 28 July 1944

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    Until researching and writing my book in 2011, I did not know of my father’s WWII service in the Pacific.  He did tell humorous stories of liberty from combat duty but never about the horror of war.  The USS Belle Grove LSD2 spent 25 months at sea in 7 campaigns before going to Shanghai, China,  for its first “liberty” giving the brave and exhausted sailors, including my father, a break from combat duty.  My father finally returned home from WWII in June of 1945. 

    It is an honor to now acknowledge and remember the 7 Pacific War Campaigns of the USS Belle Grove LSD2 on this 70th Anniversary of the capture of Iwo Jima…  It is so often the case that we post WWII military family members and loved ones did not learn details of the brave service of our fathers until much later in life.  It is never too late or too often to honor the veterans of all wars…

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

    BookReview_Reconciliation_3001-750813

    Reconciliation: A Son’s Story by Steve Sparks 2011…The USS Belle Grove LSD2 story included…

As a post WWII military child, and US Navy veteran, how did the movie American Sniper connect with my soul?

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Honoring Chris Kyle, US Navy Seal

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The blockbuster movie, American Sniper!

 

American Sniper…The Chris Kyle Story… Click the highlighted text for more…

Christopher Scott “Chris” Kyle (April 8, 1974 – February 2, 2013) was a United States Navy SEAL and the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history with 160 confirmed kills. Kyle served four tours in the Iraq War and was awarded several commendations for acts of heroism and meritorious service in combat. He received two Silver Star Medals, five Bronze Star Medals, one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.[7] Iraqi insurgents dubbed him the “Devil of Ramadi” and placed a series of ever increasing bounties on his head, purported to have eventually reached the low six figures.

Kyle was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 2009 and wrote a bestselling autobiography, American Sniper, which was published in January 2012. On February 2, 2013, Kyle was shot and killed at a shooting range near Chalk Mountain, Texas, along with friend Chad Littlefield. The man accused of killing them is awaiting trial for murder. A film adaptation of Kyle’s autobiography, directed by Clint Eastwood, was released in December 2014.

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It has taken me days to think about my reaction to the movie, American Sniper.   It was an honor but chilling experience watching the movie.  The story affected me most as a post WWII and Korean War military child living with a parent who suffered terribly from the trauma of extended deployments in hard combat.  I thought mostly of the tens of thousands of military children and families of all wars, past and present, who endured the emotional challenges of war at home during and after the wars of their generations.  I think about my mom, now age 96, who waited all of WWII for Dad to return not knowing where he was or whether he would even return to know his first son born 3 months before Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

I feel thankful that Americans are highly aware of the painful symptoms of PTSD and the lifelong and intergenerational affect of this epidemic on the children and families of warriors.  When the movie ended there was complete silence in the theater while we watched the memorial service for Chris Kyle at Cowboy Stadium.  I feel so encouraged that the stigma of mental illness and PTSD will become a thing of the past.   I believe America will be much further ahead in caring for the sailors and soldiers, including the whole family, when they return home from fighting the wars that protect the freedoms of all Americans.  When early treatment for PTSD is encouraged and supported, trauma survivors can embark on the journey of healing.

My only regret is that as a post WWII family we had no awareness or appreciation of how the trauma of war affected Dad and our family as a whole.  We ended up as one of thousands of families who were torn apart by war, and carried the emotional baggage forward in life for more than one generation.  If we had the awareness of 21st Century medical science following WWII, my family’s toxic past and emotional pain may have been avoided or at least mitigated.  We are also lucky in this day and age for the media technology and access that provides a profound sense of awareness, including the motion picture American Sniper.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of the PTSD awareness campaign by publishing my own book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story…  I feel even more thankful and proud to now know the roots of my family’s struggles following WWII, allowing me to honor my father’s memory and US Navy legacy.  It is in this spirit that we can never forget the sacrifice of veterans of all wars and the families who served too…

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

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Reconciliation: A Son’s Story by Steve Sparks, November 2011… The resilience of a post WWII and Korean War US Navy military family… click book cover for larger view of my father Vernon & mother Marcella c1940.

 

 

Remember the Children of Warriors…some hardly see or know their parents, and some lose them early in life…

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Young children are affected deeply by the absence of parents who serve…

 

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Will James’ Dad…

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Daddy’s Boots…a moving poem for children of warriors…by CJ Heck… The poem is quoted…

Daddy’s Boots
by CJ Heck
Daddy left his boots for me
and here I have to stay.
My daddy is a soldier.
I’m in charge while he’s away.
In Daddy’s boots, I can pretend
that now I am the man
who does the things that Daddy does
as only Daddy can.
I help with little brother,
I help with folding clothes,
I help to take the trash out,
and I hope Daddy knows
that every day I wear his boots
so I’ll feel close to him
and I try to keep Mom happy,
till he comes home again.
I know that he’s protecting us,
that’s what soldiers do,
but his boots are way too big for me
and my job, being him, is too.
I wonder when he’s coming home.
I miss him ALL the time.
Mom said Dad is proud of me
and his boots fit me … just fine.
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Dad, a US Navy WWII and Korean War combat veteran, was a stranger in our home for most of our lives as kids.  My oldest brother really didn’t get to know his Dad until WWII ended, and that never turned out so well.  For the rest of us born following WWII, it didn’t turn out well either.  But we all had one thing in common, we loved Dad because he was our hero and America’s hero.  Dad, like thousands of military men and women with families protected our freedoms so we could live our dreams and life challenges as well.  We served too!  I am proud to share my military family legacy and equally proud to preserve the memory my father’s selfless and brave service to America…
Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…  Please click on the highlighted text for my author page…
 
BookGoodies

Purchase this book by CJ Heck on this site at the side bar…

“American Sniper” shows the painful effects of PTSD on the children and families of warriors…

Sniper

American Sniper…a portrait of PTSD’s Affect on the children and families of warriors…

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Reconciliation: A Son’s Story by Steve Sparks…a post WWII story of my family’s challenges and resilience in conquering the emotional torment of PTSD.

 

 

American Sniper, Portrait of PTSD… by the Dallas Morning News…by Chris Vognar

@chrisvognar

see video clip review of movie…

“Eastwood, Hall and especially Cooper walk the line between Kyle’s valor and his torment. The movie is strongest when Kyle is home, as his wife, Taya (Sienna Miller, also strong), wonders whether the man who was her husband might re-enter the land of the living. Cooper turns Kyle’s emotional vacancy into a vivid presence. He wears it in the hollow eyes, and the clenched jaw, and the monosyllabic shutdown when anyone expresses concern.”

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Since the publication of my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, in November 2011, I have had fair success in educating the adult children and families of warriors on the emotional pain of PTSD and its intergenerational impact.  Now, the motion picture, American Sniper, the story of Chris Kyle, is generating more awareness, interest, and conversation than any past book, movie, documentary or story.  I say bravo! The stigma of mental health challenges, including moral injury and the symptoms of PTSD, is a global epidemic that often sticks with a family for generations with little or no treatment.

The worst of PTSD is the direct exposure to loss of life and in the act of killing another human being.  Worse yet is how PTSD affects the children and families of warriors for a lifetime.  The emotional pain of PTSD is considered a moral injury or a complete breakdown of spirituality…right vs. wrong in our human nature.  If we are in denial or disguise the emotional turmoil and don’t try to seek alternative treatments available, the worst case outcome can be suicide…loss of hope and desire to live.  Loved ones, children, and families who live with a parent or friend suffering from severe symptoms of PTSD often take on the same symptoms that carry forward like bad genes unless treated again…often a lifetime work in progress.

We can break the cycle of pain caused by moral injury and PTSD with honest conversation and treatment.  Revisiting the pain of the past either as a warrior or as a trauma victim in general has a way of releasing the stress that haunts a person’s mind and body.  The 24/7 pain of PTSD is taking a toll on thousands of combat veterans and millions of Americans who experience traumatic events from domestic violence, child abuse, and maltreatment.  Seeing this movie and starting a conversation with friends and family will be the beginning of your own journey of healing…

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

“From our home to yours, we wish you good health, calm spirits, creativity, and time shared with those you love in the coming year.”

Moab

Arches National Park, Moab Utah, June 2014 Judy & Steve in the Arch following the long hike up!  Click photo to expand view…

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30th Wedding Anniversary, Cannon Beach, Oregon April 2014…Click photo to expand view…

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Mom, Marcella, Age 96, at Christmas 2014 opening gifts…  Click photo to expand view…

Click the Highlighted Text for More…links to past postings from our travels…

HaPpY NeW yEaR!                                                                  December, 2014

Wishing all of you Happy Holidays and a Happy 2015!  Hard to believe we’re already 15 years into the 21st Century.  2014 was a good year for us.  We celebrated our 30th anniversary in April and renewed our vows in Cannon Beach, Oregon.  We had a wonderful party for two, and enjoyed a few nights at the beach about 100 miles north of Depoe Bay. 

We never seem to tire of our life here on the Oregon Coast.  It was unusually great weather from July through September, so we enjoyed daily beach walks, looking for sea glass, and breathing fresh salt air when we weren’t playing golf.  I played with Agate Beach Women’s Golf Club this year and went to several Invitationals at other local courses this summer….really fun!  Steve was able to start playing by July, following another shoulder surgery in February.  We both worked to put on our Neighbors for Kids Charity annual golf tourney in late July, our nonprofit’s major fundraiser.  I played in a Ladies foursome of friends, and Steve sponsored and played with a group of local high school Golf Team stars.  We had a great day, enjoyed having Dan Fouts play with us again, and raised significant funds for NFK’s model afterschool program

We traveled stateside twice this year.  During May/June we traveled throughout the Southwest for a month.  Steve participated in the American Military Family Museum opening in Albuquerque, NM, and has since had his written work on children and families suffering from trauma archived through the museum.  We also visited with staff at the Vietnam Memorial Museum near Angel Fire, NM, and the Bataan Museum in Sante Fe.  We spent a week of quality time with the principals who founded the new museum in Albuquerque, a great group of high energy people we now call our friends.  We were welcomed and honored to be hosted by our new friends.

Steve spoke with a Veterans for Vets group in Pagosa Springs, Co, where we spent a week following our time in New Mexico.  We also loved soaking in the Pagosa Hot Springs.  Moab was another fun stop on our return trip home, hiking in Arches National Park.  We made it to the top!

During October we traveled to Long Beach (Lone Sailor Memorial) to attend our niece’s wedding on the Queen Mary and spent time with Steve’s sister Laura, her daughters and extended family.  We also saw close friends in San Diego and loved catching up, and stayed a few days on the beach near the Oceanside Pier.  We drove over to Palm Springs area for a few days to see my sister Joy and nephew Max, and more longtime friends.  So it was great to see everyone and enjoy some warm weather.  We saw Steve’s 96 year old Mother in Reno on our way home and old friends in the Bay Area.  We feel blessed!

Steve was elected as Depoe Bay City Councilor in November.  He’ll be sworn into office on January 6.  He’s spent the last few months doing due diligence and is ready to hit the ground running next month!  Needless to say, we’ve really gotten to know many folks here, and we both enjoy being engaged in the community.

I’ll continue my volunteer work at Neighbors for Kids as their Family Literacy Coordinator.  We host a monthly Family Night, focusing on building literacy skills and offering learning opportunities connected with our STEAM programs (science, technology, engineering, art and math).  We serve a meal and offer fun activities parents can share with their children.  Our events have grown this year so our outreach to families seems to be catching on.  We have willing community partners that want to see our kids succeed, and our programs are a positive addition to our local public schools. Like many places, education funding is an ongoing struggle here, so it’s cool to be able to help children in our own community.

We enjoyed Christmas with Sarah and her boyfriend, Ron…….oh, and of course our grand dog Skai!  They were with us the 24th – 26th.  Sarah is in transition and plans to work in her field, case management or child behavior management, in Portland after the first of the year.  We’re happy she’s not too far away.  Steve’s older daughters and their families live in Southern California and Minneapolis, MN, so we don’t see our grandkids as often as we’d like.  They’re almost all young adults now! Ages 21, 20, 19 and 14.

From our home to yours, we wish you good health, calm spirits, creativity, and time shared with those you love in the coming year.

 Steve & Judy Sparks, Depoe Bay, Oregon

Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…click on the highlighted text for my author page…

Oceanside

Gorgeous Sunset at Oceanside, Ca. October 2014…Don’t miss the rare capture of Sea Gull in photo!