Dear Sons and Daughters of Veterans:
I’m honored that Christal invited me to write a brief letter to you–whether you are young or old, content or concerned, well-loved or isolated. War–particularly harsh, sustained conditions of war–can leave a troubling legacy. Combatants, and even those who were assigned far from the fighting, often are transformed from the man or woman they were to a different person. They come home without the full range of feelings that they once had: less serenity; less joyfulness; less ability to feel the love they know they have inside. On the other hand, they may be very, very aware. They are easily angered and alarmed. Their ability to sense danger is turned up. Sometimes they sense danger when danger really isn’t there. So children of veterans, especially young children, may wonder what happened to Mom or Dad — and what did I do to push my parent away? You did not push them away. Christal knows this well and she wrote about it beautifully in her book, Thirty Days With My Father: Finding Peace from Wartime PTSD. Her story is one of years spent separated in spirit from a Dad she admired, until she forced the issue and made sure they re-connected. Now she wants to do what she can to introduce children of veterans, like herself, to one another. I’m sure that many of you feel attached to friends and family. But bonds can be extended to include others who share values and experiences. That is the idea that unites us–we are connected through kinship with those who served our country. My daughter served. Your dad or mom served. That makes us family.
Frank M. Ochberg, MD