A local Korean War veteran stopped to help us the last time Mom’s truck broke down. His offer was gratefully accepted as my feet began to burn through my sandals during a 103-degree Texas day. When we returned home, he called.
He had followed our tow truck to the repair shop and wanted to make sure we had enough to cover the bill. We didn’t. He allowed me to clean his house three times to cover the bill. He even came and picked me up.
His generosity and sensitivity were touching. Hearing his story was bittersweet. He had fought in the Korean War and returned to Deep East Texas to build a life with his ‘sweet girl from Iowa’ Darlene who became his bride. The couple raised three children before her passing.
Once we decided that I could share his story over our third lunch-all Mexican food. He would attempt to share about his time in Korea and stop. The memories were too much and they obviously triggered fear.
At 19, he absorbed the hell of war in the uniform of the Unites States Air Force. When he boarded a bus on the West Coast, he left parades and dignitaries behind. There was much fanfare for the returning servicemen-a stark difference to the reception later given to the Vietnam War veterans.
His home, as well as his mind, is filled with remnants of the past. Now alone, he carries on by involving himself in the lives of his three children and grandchildren. His old white Ford truck is still adequate transportation-broken windshield and all.
The nightmares started a few months before he left Inchon, Korea for good. The impact of fighting in the Korean War would be felt by the Air Force Sargeant John D. Williams for years. He caught ‘war fever’ and brought it home to Nacogdoches.
After he kissed the ground along with other war veterans as throngs of people cheered, he collected his $1600 pay and boarded a bus to Deep East Texas. He still remembers an early investment he made in land in the Piney Woods at $64 per acre.
In less than two years of combat, the sights and sounds of Korea changed the 19-year-old serviceman forever. Terrifying nightmares, which began a few months before returning to the U.S., still wake him up occasionally. In medical terms, it’s called PTSD-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
There was a time when there was no cure, only short-term relief. Today, that might be changing. Some war-stressed veterans, like Mr. Williams, have endured decades without answers, only symptoms. There is no chemical relief from this ailment but that hasn’t stopped thousands from trying to self-medicate. Addictions are common to PTSD sufferers.
Science and psychology are merging in new ways to unlock the places that hold such trauma for these former servicemen. While he has carried the wrath of war fever since his time in Korea, research may spare the next generation of veterans the same fate.
Guided imagery, CBT-cognitive behavioral therapy-and even groundbreaking robot technology that provides anonymous assessments to possible sufferers of PTSD are making inroads to treatment that work. Going back in a controlled, but altered state, may retrieve better answers and resolution from the jagged experiences.
The Korean War was between North and South Korea. It began on June 25, 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea following a series of clashes along the border. It ended July 27,1953. Regarding the current state of affairs between the U.S. and North Korea, Williams believes, “Fooling with Kim Jong-Un is dangerous. He’s lied too many times.”