War Hero Breaks Silence

A World War II prison-of war hero, Sam returns home. Never discussing his war experiences, he marries, raises a family, and becomes an affluent farmer.

Now, almost ninety years old, and suffering from hearing and memory loss, his wife refers him to counseling, for irritability and withdrawal at home. Slight of build and ambling along with a cane, he comes to my VA office. He shares his war memories, which have begun to haunt him. His eyes well with tears, as he tells of his prison-of-war trauma. When his plane was shot down, he survived, but was captured by Germans and put in a concentration camp. He was forced to work in the fields, and survived on 3 potatoes each day. He said he saw other prisoners give up and die, but he was determined to survive. Eventually, when the war ended, he was released but not without residual effects of the starvation. The US Army had him examined by a doctor, who told him he would never be able to gain weight, but would recover. He said he was 99 pounds at the end of the war, but later gained up to 130 pounds. Glad to be alive and home, he decided to forget about his imprisonment, not realizing the psychological effects of his trauma.

As he shares his trauma in therapy, he gets in touch with repressed memories. His words free him from the bondage of silence. Soon, he begins to share his story in classroom settings in the local schools. His mood improves, he smiles, as he retells his story again and again.

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