A personal Memorial Day communication – Today I want to remember a man who died in battle, dying for our country. I don’t know his name but he was my grandfather’s “trench buddy” in World War I. On orders to advance, my grandfather and his buddy stood up out of the trenches in an attempt to move forward toward the German soldiers they were to attack. As soon as they stood, my grandfather’s “trench buddy” had his head blown off by enemy fire. My grandfather told this story once to my grandmother. It was whispered about among my family members after that but was not to be discussed in front of my grandfather.
There was a theory in my family that my grandfather came home from the war and drank every day for the rest of his life because of this incident. There was another theory that he drank because of those he may have killed (my grandmother told me that he never talked about those he may have killed). I’m sure that he came home with what is now known as PTSD. They called it “shell shocked” back then and it was stigmatized to the point where we never mentioned it, and my grandfather never admitted it.
World War I was called “the war to end all wars”, which was clearly a misnomer. On this Memorial Day, I honor my grandfather’s “trench buddy”, on behalf of my grandfather. My grandfather was against all wars and he would question our country’s current commitment to peace. On behalf of my grandfather, I wish all of our men and women overseas in the military a safe return home and I wish for a re-dedication of our country to peace.
I’m proud of BringChange2Mind for helping to end the stigma of PTSD, which has lingered in my family long after my grandfather’s death in 1967, when I was a 7 year old boy. This is the first time I, or any of my family as far as I know, have ever shared this story outside of our family inner circle. It has hovered over us in many, many ways and still exists. End the stigma!