I read recently an article by Dr. Francine Shapiro concerning combat veterans suffering from untreated PTSD, the impact this had on their children and the hope of undoing or preventing such damage in the future because of a psychotherapy called EMDR.
My dad was a combat veteran. During WWII he commanded a B-29 Superfortress on bombing missions over Japan. On one of those missions dad’s plane was shot down and they had to ditch (a controlled landing of a distressed aircraft on water) into the Sea of Japan. One of his men was killed on impact; the rest escaped as the plane sank.
In the distance, as Japanese destroyers were growing ever closer while executing a patterned search for the downed fliers, dad and his crew were silently spirited to safety, below the surface of the water, when they were rescued by the submarine USS Ronquil. Meanwhile, back on the base, back at Isley Field on the Island of Saipan, dad’s longtime regular crew, flying that one mission aboard another B-29 to help orient a new pilot, crashed on takeoff killing all aboard.
My dad spoke very little about his time at war. Like a lot of his cohorts he attempted to cope with his memories of war by avoiding them; this had a deep and lasting negative impact on our family. I understand now that my dad was trying desperately to stay in control of his emotions and his functioning so he could meet his responsibilities as husband, father & employee. Dad’s (understandable) but problematic method of coping with the unspeakable violence, helplessness and loss of war allowed him to show up for his duties at home and in the office. Decades ago there was no clearly identified treatment for his condition. Most of those guys just learned to SUCK IT UP! (This came at the cost of their emotional lives).
Today, the warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan carry with them many of the same types of emotional wounds that my father bore. Fortunately, there is now available, an effective treatment for these wounds – EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). EMDR treatment offers these veterans a post-deployment life free from the emotional minefield which is so characteristic of PTSD. Consequently, it also offers them (and us) the possibility that their children may be raised without the negative emotional and physical aftermath that is typically the legacy of a parent with untreated PTSD.