My son, Nicholas, just didn’t seem to understand how much pain I suffered in Sutcliffe Park when I took him to see fireworks on clear and starry night sky on the Fourth of July some years ago.
At first, I enjoyed the rockets zooming into the air. They were a colorful red, white and blue explosions that took your breath away with gasps of wonder and awe.
Soon however, they took on a menacing demeanor, however, as each blast began to remind me of the Vietnam War and the rounds of mortar fire that fell on me and my platoon some 30 years earlier.
You don’t know what Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) is like until you experience it firsthand. Yes, it touches your hands, your throat, and your chest. I began to tremble. My hands shook. My breathing speeded up and I felt sweat at my forehead and that spot beneath the arms that cause those nasty looking stains on your best dress shirts.
I wanted out. I wanted to leave immediately, but how do you tell a 14-year-old about what is causing fear and anxiety to run through his old man’s psyche? What does he know about this malady? How can anyone not exposed to such a life-altering event understand how it marks you and will never let you forget it whenever something triggers it years after the traumatic event?
That’s why they call It “post traumatic” I guess. It bites you in the ass when you least expect it. Like when you take your kid to see the fireworks in your hometown of Conshohocken, PA, of the good old US of A.
God, how I hate this disorder. How I hate war. How I hate the explosions that take place as a direct result of this man-made horror called war It’s hard to understand if you haven’t been there or suffered something unusually traumatic.
I’ve learned to stay away from July 4th celebrations. I also shy away from crowds and other things that might cause me to have what I call a “PTSD episode.”
It’s the price I have had to pay for the love of country, I guess. No, not my country, but the guy walking beside me, the buddy I’d gladly give up my life to protect and preserve. It was the buddy system that I’m talking about. For me, it extended to my whole platoon when I served as a lieutenant some 40 years ago.
To hell with rockets when you got love to share for someone you feel is special like those in ‘Nam. And those back at home.
My son offered that to me when he agreed to leave the park before the celebrations came to end.