In August 1971, I started my freshman year at Limestone High School in Bartonville, Illinois. In May of that year, one of my cousins on the Williams side of the family — I’ll call him Jason — had graduated from Limestone. Jason was an average student, but there was one thing that he accomplished during his high school years that his mom was extremely proud of. During his senior year, his classmates took a vote and named him “the toughest guy in the school.”
During my freshman year, there were several occasions when I heard stories about Jason’s reputation for having lightning fast reflexes and an ability to swiftly conquer any opponent who was foolish enough to challenge him.
There was one occasion during the Christmas break that year when I saw Jason at a family get together. When he asked me how school was going, I told him it was going okay. He asked me if anyone was giving me any problems. When I answered “no,” he said, “If anyone ever bothers you, I want you to let me know and I’ll take care of them.”
When I smiled and said “ok,” he said, “I mean it. If anyone ever gives you any trouble, I want to know about it.” I assured him that I would let him know if anyone ever bothered me, and I thanked him for offering to look after me. When I returned to school after the Christmas break, I felt a new sense of confidence because I knew that if I ever had any problems, I could simply make a phone call and my cousin would come to my rescue.
A couple of years after I had the conversation with Jason, a friend of his — I’ll call him Jake — returned home from combat duty in Vietnam. At the time, Jake needed a place to stay, so Jason offered to let him stay with Jason’s family until he got back on his feet. Jason had a bedroom in his parent’s home, so that’s where Jake slept — in a full-size bed with Jason.
The first night that Jake slept in the same bed as Jason, he began screaming in the middle of the night. He then attacked Jason who reacted by wrestling with can you everJake and rolling him off the bed and onto the floor where Jason pinned him to the floor until he woke up and realized where he was at. That same event — commonly known as a night terror — continued to occur on a regular basis.
Over time, the night terrors became less frequent. Jake eventually got married, raised a family with his wife, and had a very successful career. A few years ago, I heard that he had retired and that he and his wife had moved to a state with a warmer climate. He then went on to develop some hobbies that kept him busy. Unfortunately for him, for some unknown reason, he began to have night terrors again.
While the night terrors were not frequent, they brought back, in vivid detail, the horrors of the war that he had been forced to endure when he was a young man. I thought about Jake and my cousin Jason last week while I was meeting with a client and her husband.
My client — I’ll call her Olivia — had been injured a couple of years ago because of the negligence of a manager at a local company where she had worked as a volunteer. At the time of her injury, Olivia had been in a relationship with a man — I’ll call him Richard — for more than 18 years. When we originally met, Olivia was 61 and Richard was 71. Last year, Olivia and Richard finally got married.
At my meeting last week with Olivia and Richard, at one point, for no apparent reason, Richard said, “You know, today is September 19. 2019. Today is the 50-year anniversary of when I came home from Vietnam. I was 23 years old when I returned home on September 19, 1969. That was one of the most important days of my life.”
I asked Richard if he had seen combat in Vietnam, and he answered, “Oh yeah, and it was really bad.” I then asked him if he ever had nightmares or any other issues and he said, “Yeah, that’s the reason Olivia didn’t want to marry me all those years. She didn’t know if she wanted to go through all of it with me, especially at night.”
We then spent some time talking about the horrors of war and the fact that the media never portrays the truly harmful long-term effects that a war has on its combatants.
Every once in a while, there’s an article on the internet that refers to the fact that on average, a United States veteran dies every day as a result of suicide. Even though I’ve seen that statistic on numerous occasions, it still boggles my mind that at least one U.S. veteran commits suicide every single day.
Last year when a female client of mine who was a veteran told me that she was thinking about committing suicide, I had a long conversation with her about the importance of faith and prayer and the fact that there was a critical need for her in the lives of her children and her grandchildren.
Earlier this year, I had the same conversation with a man in his 60s who was contemplating suicide. Both he and the woman that I talked to last year were stunned that their attorney cared enough to take the time to work through some of their issues with them.
You’ve probably heard of PTSD, which is an acronym for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Mayo Clinic website describes PTSD as a mental condition that is triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Some of the most common events that lead to the development of PTSD include combat exposure, childhood physical abuse, sexual violence, physical assault, and an accident.
Symptoms that can develop from PTSD may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. People who suffer from PTSD often experience hopelessness about the future, difficulty maintaining close relationships, and feelings of detachment from family and friends. They are also at an increased risk for mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts and actions.
Many of our veterans suffer from PTSD. The two men that I told you about, Jake and Richard, have suffered from PTSD for most of their adult lives. Over the years, I’ve had several clients who have suffered from PTSD. While there are various treatments that are available, including cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, it has been my experience that the medical and psychiatric professions are still struggling to come up with long-term solutions to effectively treat this condition.
PTSD is an extremely serious condition that adversely affects millions of Americans. It’s frustrating to me that more time, money, and resources are not being dedicated to treating this condition. Instead, hundreds of millions of dollars are being poured into the so-called solutions to the doom and gloom scenarios that the media and elite members of our society are currently predicting for our future. Why can’t we focus more on the problems that are currently plaguing our nation?