As the latest wars wind down, can we do better dealing with PTSD?


When I was a boy, there were times my father would break into a cold sweat for no apparent reason, and sit frozen in his recliner like death warmed over.

Once, he flew into a rage over some minor infraction and started hitting my sister until my mother intervened. He retreated into his bedroom, sobbing like a baby and holding back his own hands as if trying to handcuff them from doing any further harm.

I can go on with more examples, from Dad or others of his generation who served in combat during WWII. In their day, the admission of any such fallout from war was taboo.

Only one word could accompany such chatter: Weakness.

We’ve come a long way since then. Post-Vietnam, it took us years to realize how wrong it was to spit on soldiers coming home from battle.  Today, thankfully, we understand that you can’t guilt a person out of the anguish of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In my Portland Sun column this week, “Defeating the scourge of PTSD,” I’m far from any kind of an expert, despite my own years of service.

Rather, I look ahead to where we can go from here. We must do justice to these men and women who are scarred as a result of fulfilling their oath to the nation – even when, at times, the reasons for going to war are, euphemistically, unclear.

It’s hard enough getting things done in the bureaucratic labyrinth known as government. It’s even more difficult when trials on experimental treatments not involving medication – such as acupressure or acupuncture – are shelved for even more debatable reasons.

What should be done?  What can be done? What do you think? Don’t we owe these service members the benefit of looking into all credible avenues of treatment?

Such questions are germane in every state, given the extensive use of National Guard and Reserve troops in combat deployments over the last 13 years.

And it means just as much in Maine as it does in California or Texas.

Because no child, whether in Portland or Soldier Pond, should ever have to see their parent drowning in a sea of torment.


Telly Halkias

About Telly Halkias

Award-winning freelance journalist from Portland's West End. Writes columns, features, and drama reviews for newspapers in Vermont, where he also owns a home, Massachusetts, New York and Maine.. Former weekend columnist at the now defunct Portland Sun. Longtime adjunct professor of college English/history/humanities. Has lived overseas for 15 years, and all over the U.S. Veteran. Small business owner. Published poet. ATCA drama critic. Loves all things outdoors, and Siberian huskies.