Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Nick Smith, Finn, Douglas, Cassidy

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness

In the midst of war it is not uncommon for a soldier or veteran to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is especially true for former prisoners of war. They are forced into harsh working conditions, beaten and starved. They receive no proper medicine and are surrounded by disease and daily executions. This experience plays a dramatic toll on their mental state. However, it is not just POWs who suffer from PTSD. Currently, 1 in 3 troops returning to the states are diagnosed with severe PTSD. It is our responsibility as a society to come alongside these troops and aid their transition back into civilian life.

Shocking PTSD Statistics

Louie Zamperini- Overcoming PTSD

A prime example of overcoming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is Louie Zamperini. In 1943, Zamperini's plane went down in the Pacific Ocean, killing all of the crew members except for Louie, Allen Phillips, and Francis McNamara. After drifting in the ocean for 47 days and enduring 2 years in some of the worst Japanese POW camps, Louie struggled to find his place in society and overcome the nightmares that haunted his sleep. With the support of family members and a relationship with God, Louie was able to overcome his PTSD and forgive the people who hurt him. His whole story is recounted in Laura Hillenbrand's book titled, "Unbroken".

Laura Hillenbrand's "Unbroken"

In Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, the main character, Louie, toils through his plight as a prisoner of war (POW) in Japan. Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, had to conduct multiple interviews with people who would be essential to making an accurate representation in her story. She had experience with this kind of work and brought that to her research in Unbroken. Unbroken takes place during WWII on Japanese controlled islands that held POWs. After the war, Louie is released and returns home. However, upon arrival, Louie realizes that he has post-traumatic stress disorder. The book displays the kind of horrors that a soldier with PTSD has experienced in his life and why this issue is so prominent in veterans, even today.

Louie, an airman in the Pacific theatre of WWII, is in a plane crash. He and two other survivors float on a raft for over a month. One dies and the other two drift to Japanese shores and are captured by a Japanese ship. They must then endure life as prisoners of war. After being beaten and demoralized for three years, the war ends and they are released back to the US. However, Louie finds that nightmares of his time as a POW constantly haunts him and makes his life and the lives of those around him harder.

Upon Louie’s return, his PTSD interferes with his life. Memories of his time at the Japanese imprisonment camps cause him to have flashbacks and nightmares. His flashbacks eventually cause him to unknowingly strangle his pregnant wife, thinking he is choking his most hated attacker, the Bird. Fueled with hatred, he plans to go back to Japan and kill the Bird. Before he does, he begins to devote himself to God. In His teachings, Louie begins to replace his hatred for the Bird with love and returns to Japan to make amends with former soldiers responsible for his imprisonment.

However, Louie’s story could’ve been far different. He was one of the few men with PTSD to turn his life around for the better and completely leave behind his experience. Most men affected by this go crazy or commit suicide or just surrender to nightmares night after night. These types of experiences can damage men and families, and that is why PTSD is such a big issue. I would recommend this book because it provides an insight into the cruelties of human nature as well as the power of “mind over matter” and the difference that true perseverance can make.

Serving Kansas City's Local Veterans

Kansas City VA Hospital Opportunities:

  • information desk volunteer
  • parking lot golf cart driver
  • volunteer office assistant
  • patient escort volunteers
  • hospitality coffee cart
  • comfort items volunteer
  • magazine/book cart