Tag Archives: Vernon H. Sparks US Navy WWII & Korean War

Remember Pearl Harbor…Honoring my Father and Shipmates who Served Aboard the USS West Virginia (BB48) on December 7, 1941…

USS West Virgina

USS West Virginia (BB48) Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941… It was when this photo was taken, my Dad, Vernon H. Sparks, US Navy, Coxswain, was swimming to Ford Island following the call by Capt. Bennion to “Abandon Ship!”

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Vernon H. Sparks, Boatswains Mate Chief, USS Belle Grove (LSD2) 1943-45 Serving in the Pacific War…

MomDad

Vernon and Marcella Sparks c1940…

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December 7, 1941…My Father’s Memories…

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The well recognized photo of the USS West Virginia (BB48) is very personal to me.  I know my father, Vernon, was swimming to Ford Island at the time the photo was taken of his ship sinking in Pearl Harbor.  The heartfelt feelings are healing and provide a special spiritual connection to my father.  When asked, Dad talked of his experience on that fateful day so long ago… I could tell it was hard for Dad to speak of the events because the memories were so vivid and painful for him.  He lost his best friend and shipmate Roy Powers on that day, and could never get past the memory of seeing his battle buddy falling back headless from looking out the porthole of the ship during the bombing.  Dad rarely spoke of the rest of WWII and the many months he spent in hard combat in the South Pacific.  He finally came home in June of 1945 just before WWII ended.  I tell my family’s post WWII story of forgiveness and healing in the books listed below.

My cousin, Dawn, in Minneapolis, Mn., sent me Dad’s written account of his experience aboard the USS West Virginia (BB48) before he finally abandoned ship as ordered.  Dad wrote his account for the US Park Service on the 50th Anniversary (1991) of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.(click on this powerful ABC video clip)!  This was the first time he returned to Pearl Harbor following WWII to receive the Pearl Harbor Survivors Medal.  The unexplained part of this story, is that my father never shared the US Park Service document with his immediate family.  He mailed it to his sister, Dolly, for safe keeping.  My guess  is that it was too painful for him to share the tragic details with us by revisiting the experience over and over again…

In honor of all those who served, and the families who waited for weeks to learn of the fate of loved ones, following is my father Vernon’s transcribed first person account of those minutes following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941…

Vernon H. Sparks Handwritten Account

Following is a transcription from the National Park Service…

National Park Service

Survivor Questionnaire – Persons Present December 7, 1941, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii

Vernon H. Sparks, US Navy, Battleship USS West Virginia, Coxswain

Hometown: St. Paul, Mn

Brief Account of What Happened to You Before, During, & After the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.

I was on the 3rd deck heading for the anchor windless room when the first torpedo hit the USS West Virginia. From there, more bombing and torpedoes-when all hell broke loose.Men in the brig were screaming for help. I could not respond, there was no time…to check where the Marine guard was with the keys to the cells. Evidently, he had already been hit.The men in the brig were engulfed in water and perished.I worked my way up to the2nd deck with water up to my waist.By this time, I came to a hatch with the manhole still open leading to the main deck.I barely made it out of the escape hatch and was ordered by Lt. Stark to close that hatch.The men were still down there but it was too late for them.That was the first time I heard that the Japs were attacking our fleet…and the whole island. I watched one of my best shipmates get himself killed-Roy Powers.He stuck his head out the port side close to the ship-fitters shop; and about that time another torpedo hit and the concussion blew his head off.His body fell back on deck headless.  After that it was a matter of surviving.  There was no defense, the ship was already listing to port at about 35 degrees angle.I worked myself up further on the deck and observed the Commanding Officer, Mervyn S. Bennion heading for the bridge.The strafing and bombing was still on.When I arrived on the main deck going forward to the number one turret…strafing still going on…I dived under the overhang of the turret.Communications was out, so by word of mouth heard the order, “all hands abandon ship.”Note: Capt. Bennion was lying on the wing of the bridge mortally wounded…He asked the doc, “What kind of chance he had?”And was told, “Not much Captain.”Then, Captain Bennion said, “Leave me on the bridge and this is my last order, ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP!”He died right after that order… After that order I jumped over the side to starboard and swam to Ford Island…Us guys that made it were standing on the beach watching the USS Arizona blow up sky high…what a helpless feeling.  I had torn my white uniform up to use as emergency treatment bandages for the wounded. Anyway, to make a long story short, we dashed across the field under strafing conditions to shelter. In the BOQ, we were able shower in there and salvage clothes from the lockers, and helped organize the Harbor Patrol. And was with that duty for a few months – then assigned to new construction with the 5th Amphibious Force hitting the beaches of the South Pacific, all the way, then finally Iwo Jima, & Okinawa until the Peace Treaty was signed aboard the USS Missouri in Toyko, Japan.  People like myself could go on & on…but that would take a book…

Vernon H. Sparks, December 7, 1941, Battleship USS West Virginia

From Ship’s Crew Muster

Sparks, Vernon H.328-41-29Cox.13Jan.3610/12/39

“Remember Pearl Harbor!”

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2…Click on highlighted text for my author page…and to download e-books or paperback.

SteveSunriver

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate

You can also purchase the Pearl Harbor 50th Anniversary Edition…by clicking the highlighted text or on my sidebar…

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…

 

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…

Dad Photo and Awards

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…

BookReview_Reconciliation_3001-750813

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.

 

 

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December 7, 1941…My Father’s Memories…

PearlHarborUSSWestVirginia

USS West Virginia (BB48) Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941… It was when this photo was taken, my Dad, Vernon H. Sparks, US Navy, Coxswain, was swimming to Ford Island following the call by Capt. Bennion to “Abandon Ship!”

 

 

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

Photos on cover of Vernon and Marcella Sparks c1940 and the USS West Virginia in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor…

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The well recognized photo of the USS West Virginia (BB48) is very personal to me.  I know my father, Vernon, was swimming to Ford Island at the time the photo was taken of his ship sinking in Pearl Harbor.  The heartfelt feelings are healing and provide a special spiritual connection to my father.  When asked, Dad talked of his experience on that fateful day so long ago… I could tell it was hard for Dad to speak of the events because the memories were so vivid and painful for him.  He lost his best friend and shipmate Roy Powers on that day, and could never get past the memory of seeing his battle buddy falling back headless from looking out the porthole of the ship during the bombing.  Dad rarely spoke of the rest of WWII and the many months he spent in hard combat in the South Pacific.  He finally came home in June of 1945 just before WWII ended.  I tell my family’s post WWII story of forgiveness and healing in the books listed below.

My cousin, Dawn, in Minneapolis, Mn., sent me Dad’s written account of his experience aboard the USS West Virginia (BB48) before he finally abandoned ship as ordered.  Dad wrote his account for the US Park Service on the 50th Anniversary (1991) of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.(click on this powerful ABC video clip)!  This was the first time he returned to Pearl Harbor following WWII to receive the Pearl Harbor Survivors Medal.  The unexplained part of this story, is that my father never shared the US Park Service document with his immediate family.  He mailed it to his sister, Dolly, for safe keeping.  My guess  is that it was too painful for him to share the tragic details with us by revisiting the experience over and over again…

In honor of all those who served, and the families who waited for weeks to learn of the fate of loved ones, following is my father Vernon’s transcribed first person account of those minutes following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941…

Vernon H. Sparks Handwritten Account

Following is a transcription from the National Park Service…

National Park Service

Survivor Questionnaire – Persons Present December 7, 1941, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii

Vernon H. Sparks, US Navy, Battleship USS West Virginia, Coxswain

Hometown: St. Paul, Mn

Brief Account of What Happened to You Before, During, & After the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.

I was on the 3rd deck heading for the anchor windless room when the first torpedo hit the USS West Virginia. From there, more bombing and torpedoes-when all hell broke loose.Men in the brig were screaming for help. I could not respond, there was no time…to check where the Marine guard was with the keys to the cells. Evidently, he had already been hit.The men in the brig were engulfed in water and perished.I worked my way up to the2nd deck with water up to my waist.By this time, I came to a hatch with the manhole still open leading to the main deck.I barely made it out of the escape hatch and was ordered by Lt. Stark to close that hatch.The men were still down there but it was too late for them.That was the first time I heard that the Japs were attacking our fleet…and the whole island. I watched one of my best shipmates get himself killed-Roy Powers.He stuck his head out the port side close to the ship-fitters shop; and about that time another torpedo hit and the concussion blew his head off.His body fell back on deck headless.  After that it was a matter of surviving.  There was no defense, the ship was already listing to port at about 35 degrees angle.I worked myself up further on the deck and observed the Commanding Officer, Mervyn S. Bennion heading for the bridge.The strafing and bombing was still on.When I arrived on the main deck going forward to the number one turret…strafing still going on…I dived under the overhang of the turret.Communications was out, so by word of mouth heard the order, “all hands abandon ship.”Note: Capt. Bennion was lying on the wing of the bridge mortally wounded…He asked the doc, “What kind of chance he had?”And was told, “Not much Captain.”Then, Captain Bennion said, “Leave me on the bridge and this is my last order, ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP!”He died right after that order… After that order I jumped over the side to starboard and swam to Ford Island…Us guys that made it were standing on the beach watching the USS Arizona blow up sky high…what a helpless feeling.  I had torn my white uniform up to use as emergency treatment bandages for the wounded. Anyway, to make a long story short, we dashed across the field under strafing conditions to shelter. In the BOQ, we were able shower in there and salvage clothes from the lockers, and helped organize the Harbor Patrol. And was with that duty for a few months – then assigned to new construction with the 5th Amphibious Force hitting the beaches of the South Pacific, all the way, then finally Iwo Jima, & Okinawa until the Peace Treaty was signed aboard the USS Missouri in Toyko, Japan.  People like myself could go on & on…but that would take a book…

Vernon H. Sparks, December 7, 1941, Battleship USS West Virginia

From Ship’s Crew Muster

Sparks, Vernon H.328-41-29Cox.13Jan.3610/12/39

“Remember Pearl Harbor!”

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…

You can also purchase the Pearl Harbor 50th Anniversary Edition…by clicking the highlighted text or on my sidebar…

 

 

 

 

 

Father & Son Connect with “The Lone Sailor Memorial Statue” in Long Beach, California…

LoneSailor3

Steve Sparks at the “Lone Sailor Memorial Statue” in Long Beach, Ca.

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US Navy “Lone Sailor Memorial Foundation.”  Click for a larger view…

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Marcella and Vernon Sparks c1940 Long Beach, Ca. Dad was a US Navy Coxswain at the time, serving aboard the Battleship USS West Virginia…destination Pearl Harbor prior to the beginning of WWII.  Click photo for larger view…

US Navy Memorial Foundation…  Quote from this website…

“The Lone Sailor statue represents all people who ever served, are serving now or who are yet to serve in the Navy. The Lone Sailor is a composite of the U.S. Navy bluejacket, past, present and future. He’s called the Lone Sailor.”

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I never emotionally connected with my father’s US Navy career until researching and writing my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, in 2011.  I didn’t know him well until long after he passed away in 1998.  I didn’t know my mother either…who is still with us at age 96 living in Reno, Nevada.  Growing up as a military child during the 1950’s and early 1960’s was hell.  Carrying around the emotional baggage of a toxic childhood was worse than hell for decades until learning more about the lives of my parents during the years leading up to WWII and afterwards.  I know them both now, far better than those years now lost in time and burdened with anger toward the pain of child abuse and emotional neglect.  I am no longer angry!

I stood by the “Lone Sailor” statue in Long Beach yesterday for a long time.  I was deeply moved…  I thought about my Dad and what he was like when joining the US Navy in 1936.  Dad spent his early years as a young sailor in Long Beach, California, no doubt standing in this very place looking out at sea dreaming about the future and what would come.  His first ship duty was aboard the Battleship USS Tennessee following boot camp in 1936.  I know he had hope and was excited about life.  Dad was outgoing, an extrovert, kind of like me.  He and mother were married in Long Beach in 1940 and experienced some of the happiest times of their lives until he departed on the USS West Virginia on a secret mission at that time during the summer of 1941.  My oldest brother, Jerry, was born in September 1941, three months before the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

I thought about my own US Navy service during the early 1960’s and felt close to Dad while reading the engraved memorial bricks at the “Lone Sailor Statue” site.  I also thought about Dad’s final words in his own written account (discovered after my book was published) while standing on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, after abandoning ship and swimming for safety after the USS West Virginia was bombed.  He and his shipmates watched the Battleship USS Arizona and the other ships from the US Navy Pacific Fleet engulfed in flames and smoke, and said, “People like myself could go on and on, but that would take a book!”  (click highlighted text for the full written account).  I am proud of my father, Vernon, and all the “Lone Sailor(s)” who served.  I am very grateful to have been inspired to write this book, which provided the personal strength to start my own journey of healing and forgiveness.

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…

MomDadOct2014

Steve & Judy Sparks, October 18, 2014, Long Beach, California…

The caregivers of our warriors who serve too! Who picks up the fight when our heroes come home?

Hidden Heroes…  Click on this powerful video clip from ABC News! 1.1 million caregivers volunteer and are at risk of their own anxiety and depression…secondary PTS… From ABC News…

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Elizabeth Dole, “Hidden Heroes”

Elizabeth Dole Foundation…  Quote from Elizabeth Dole…

5.5 Million Reasons to Support Military and Veteran Caregivers by Senator Elizabeth Dole

“As I reflect on the national conversation we have initiated about military and veteran caregiving, one number continues to ring out in my mind – 5.5 million. The RAND Corporation report my Foundation commissioned revealed that 5.5 million Americans are caring for ill or wounded service members and veterans. When I first heard the figure, it astounded me. To think that so many loved ones have been quietly caring for those who have cared for us…

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When I was growing up as a post WWII and Korean War military child, the term “veteran caregiver” was not used nor would the significance or implications be understood.  Caregiving was something you heard about in nursing homes or hospitals, not at home.  Who would ever think that a WWII hero like my father Vernon, who was training boots at the US Naval Training Center in San Diego in 1948, needed a “caregiver.”  Not a chance!  But in reality my Dad, like thousands of combat veterans from that time, needed lots of help inside and outside of the home.  As a family we were the caregivers at home by default, so to speak.  My oldest brother, Jerry, as an example became very much part of the family caregiving team along with Mom.  He didn’t ask for it, he had no choice…  And we were all affected by the emotional turmoil of my father’s suffering following WWII and the Korean War.

We siblings knew something was out of sorts in our home, but didn’t really understand, so the toxic behavior and struggles as a family were thought to be normal and private…not a word to anyone outside of the home!  So we moved forward one day at a time as a family, fearing what each day would bring.  It was a blessing for us to get away from home for school and play.  We hated to return!  When we did return, hiding out in our room, in the basement, or outside close to home when the weather permitted, felt safer.  We wanted to stay clear of Dad because he was always angry…  The sad part is we took all the emotional baggage with us well into adult life, and needed “caregivers” as the next generation of trauma victims.  Reference the “Trauma-Informed Caregiver Practice Guide.”

I am now very encouraged that all the awareness about the needs of the children and families of veterans and those who served in combat is creating a new culture of sensitivity in America and around the globe.  Caregiving is no longer a word that belongs to a nurse or doctor in a facility outside of the home.  The stigma of mental health will someday be a thing of the past, probably not in my lifetime.  What I do see happening, and participate in my own work as an author and blogger, is heartwarming.  I have peace of mind now with clear understanding of my own past living in a toxic home following WWII.  I am also convinced that the momentum of the new “caregiving” culture for our heroes is taking hold.  The “suck up” mentality and “go home and forget about it” coaching from the military is over.

I am especially grateful that the conversation and the work of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation includes the children and families, the primary caregivers of warriors, who served America too…long after the wars of our time are over.  The war clearly comes home to the military families to begin another fight to bring peace of mind back into the hearts and souls of the loved ones who served on the battlefield or at sea fighting to protect our freedoms.

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

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my books, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1… (Kindle $2.99), and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

 

– See more at: http://elizabethdolefoundation.org/#sthash.ODd4gXJM.dpuf

May 26: Sacrifice & Service: The American Military Family Exhibit opens Memorial Day in Albuquerque…

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my books, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1… (Kindle $2.99), and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

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The military family serves too!

Museum of the American Military Family…”We Served Too…”  Quote from this website… “Through this exhibit, the community can see history through a different filter, relive their own military roots, open dialogue between generations, and leave with a deeper appreciation of what it means to serve as a military family. This is an opportunity for visitors to experience a unique part of history, their history, in many cases — their complete story–the joy and pain, the sorrow, and the sacrifice…”

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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History…  Quoting from this website…

“Sacrifice & Service: The American Military Family” is a special exhibit that will open Memorial Day, May 26, and run through August 31 at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.

This inspiring exhibition celebrates America’s rich military history through the voices of America’s military families. Through written word and interactive elements, visitors will experience the joy, the sorrow and the sacrifice of America’s steadfast and unsung heroes, the military family.

There is no additional admission cost to view the exhibit beyond regular Museum admission; $8 for adults and $7 for youth and seniors.

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I am honored as a former US Navy military child and Vietnam era veteran, to participate in the Museum of the American Military Family Memorial Day exhibit “Sacrifice and Service.”  My story as a child of a US Navy WWII and Korean War combat veteran is painful.  America’s combat veterans from all wars up to and including Vietnam were from the “go home and forget about it” and “suck it up” culture.  Not because we wanted to ignore the moral injury and invisible wounds of war sustained by American soldiers and sailors who protected the freedoms of Americans, it was because we were ignorant of the lasting emotional damage in life after war.  Medical science did not define or measure the mental health effects of war until around 1980 following the Vietnam War.  Until recently we did not recognize how war affected the entire military family, especially children, often for a lifetime. 

“We served too” has a special meaning to me.   I am proud of my father’s honorable and heroic service during WWII and the Korean War.  I am proud to have been a military child from a US Navy family where my mother served too as a single mom during all WWII and as the life long caregiver for my father.  I am proud to have served in the US Navy during the Vietnam era.  And, I am especially proud to be an American.   I am also now well aware of how war affects the bodies, minds and souls of warriors like my father, including the families, who served America with honor, duty and pride.  I am especially aware of how the American military family served as caregivers to the men and women who returned home following long and multiple deployments in hard combat.  It is with this knowledge and awareness that my own journey of healing includes helping others become educated on the lingering effects and on-going treatment of moral injury and Post-Traumatic Stress on the military family.

I am looking forward to a full schedule of book readings, discussions, and interaction with visitors attending the Museum of the American Military Family “Sacrifice and Service” exhibit on May 31st and June 1st at the Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque.   It is a high honor and privilege to share my personal experience and body of work to help others know more of their own family’s proud but sometimes painful military history and service to America…

As a gift to the Museum of the American Military Family and the upcoming “Sacrifice and Service” exhibit, following is a short poem reflecting heartfelt thoughts about my post WWII and Korean War experience as a US Navy military child.  “We served too!”

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Steve Sparks, 1956, age 10…click to expand photo…

Mother always told Dad we were bad while he was away at sea.

We were safe and free when Dad sailed away.

Fear and beatings made us cry you see…

Mother seemed happier when Dad was away at sea.

With love, joy, and play,

Dreams of family all together forever.

The fear and beatings came again anyway…

By Steve Sparks 

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

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

Photos on cover of Vernon and Marcella Sparks c1940 and the USS West Virginia in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor…