PTSD

A Gift Given

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By Justin Murphy
News21 / Syracuse University

One thing about Ed Bush: He knows how to laugh.

It’s a hoarse belly chuckle that goes along with good news and bad. His gray ponytail and prodigious stomach get to bobbing; his small, sparkly eyes sparkle more brightly, casting about for someone to draw into the joke.

Ed didn’t always laugh like this.

Not as a gunner in Korea during the Vietnam War, when he rappelled from helicopters into a hail of midnight bullets with a simple task: eliminate.

PTSD Experience

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When you boil it down, much of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is born from the habits that people develop in a warzone in order to stay alive. This includes behavior like hypervigilence and constant suspicion. The trauma part comes in when a person returns home, but their mind is still in the warzone, trying to protect them from perceived threats -- at the mall, while grocery shopping or driving down the road.

When He Came Home

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By Matthew Nojiri

News21 / Syracuse University

The Marine’s family and friends come to this cemetery just outside of town to think about the kid who loved to wrestle, who spent holidays fishing with his father, who had a smile people still remember.

Someone has placed a toy motorbike on his gravestone. As a teenager, the Marine used to race up these Northeastern Washington trails and dart between trees in a town covered with more forest trails than streets.

More than a Warrior

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By Michelle San Miguel
News21 / Syracuse University

Jared Starkel was walking past the dairy case at Prince’s Center — the grocery store where he worked — when the “threat” appeared out of nowhere.

An Arab man was coming toward him.

Jared’s mind processed the data: Turban. Beard. Blue, flowing garment.

Interviews and trauma

We've been talking with veterans and advocates who point out that interviewing veterans with PTSD and other people with trauma can be a unique situation. A traumatized person may talk about emotionally painful things voluntarily. But for some, it can unleash intense feelings, which the traumatized person then has to figure out how to cope with.

A few tips we learned:

Be clear about your role. You're not a counselor. Let them know what to expect from you as a journalist, what that involves (one interview, phone contact, etc.).

Carrying the burden

Photograph of quilts made by wives and widows of Vietnam veterans
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Yesterday we visited with Danna Hughes of Vietnam Veterans Wives, a veterans organization in Republic. Being the widow of a Vietnam veteran, she shared the everyday struggles of veterans' wives.

PTSD & families

Photo by Kelly West
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Danna Hughes' husband came home from the Vietnam War. But he fought a mental battle years later and wrestled with what he saw there.

He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and eventually she did too.

Untreated PTSD in veterans becomes an infection that plagues military families, Hughes told a group of News 21 fellows today when we visited her at her Vietnam Veterans' Wives office.

"She becomes like him. The children become like him. It's a vicious cycle. The only way it can be helped is with good counseling," she said.

Pancakes, prayers for vets

Photo by: Steve Davis
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After a pair of two-hour round-trips to Chesaw in as many days, Juliette and I were content with today's assignment, a Memorial Day pancake breakfast just a few miles down the road. It was a fundraiser for the Republic Volunteer Fire Department; the firefighters flipped elderberry pancakes and monitored frying eggs and ham where the firetrucks usually park.

Talking with Mike and Karen

Photo by: Kate Szrom
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We met with Karen Schimpf and Mike Stewart yesterday in the mountains of Tonasket. Karen and Mike both served in Vietnam and their homes are filled with books, movies and newspaper clippings related to America's military history. Mike was in the army and was involved in the only tank-to-tank battle in Vietnam. To pay for college, Karen became a nurse and worked in Saigon for a year.

PTSD Survey

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a huge issue in the veteran population here in Washington state. PTSD is still a relatively new term in the mental health field, and many vets either don't know what the symptoms of PTSD are, or don't believe they suffer from it.

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