News / Arts & Entertainment

For Veterans with PTS, Battle Is Just Beginning

With PTS, Soldiers Leave 1 War Only to Battle Anotheri
Penelope Poulou
May 13, 2014 12:57 PM
Veterans can spend an entire lifetime dealing with the trauma of war. While severe physical injuries are attended to, those with emotional trauma are often left to suffer in their own darkness. One documentary showcases the pain and loneliness of veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTS). But it also illuminates how this darkness can be lifted. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Penelope Poulou
Veterans can spend an entire lifetime dealing with the trauma of war.

While those with severe physical injuries can get help rehabilitating into society, those with emotional trauma often suffer in their own darkness.

Two films, one a documentary, the other a drama based on a real story, showcase the pain and loneliness of veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTS). But the films also illuminate how this darkness can be lifted.

Not Yet Begun to Fight

Steve Platcow's documentary Not Yet Begun to Fight follows Elliott Miller as he slowly heals from the physical wounds he received in Afghanistan.

“Yes, I do have some goals that I’m working towards," Miller says in the documentary, "and one is that I am working on improving my verbal communication abilities and two, I’m presently working towards getting able to legally drive again and three, well, that one I’m just going to save for myself.”

Emotional healing will take longer.

A program called “Warrior and Quiet Waters” brought Elliott and other veterans suffering from PTS to Bozeman, Montana, for some therapeutic recreation.

Marine Colonel Eric Hastings created the program after returning from the battlefield and finding solace in fly fishing.

“It became an absolute desperate physical and mental need," Hastings said. "And I had to do it or I was going to kill somebody.”

Platcow, who says every fish caught and released symbolizes a chance for redemption, is personally invested in the documentary. His grandfather, a World War I veteran and later  missionary in what was then the Belgian Congo, suffered from PTS.

“He hunted incessantly, so he was never able to live a life without violence," Platcow said. "The best he was able to do managing himself was to channel the violence in a way he felt it was productive and that he was providing food for himself as well as the villagers that they were serving.”

But for many veterans with PTS there is another kind of violence.

“Violence inward results in suicide," said Platcow. "And there’s been a lot of that coverage of mortality rates of returning troops and just how high these suicide rates are."
Back in Bozeman, the veterans feel inadequate and are reluctant to rejoin society. They are angry and ashamed.

"It’s shameful to think that these people think that you screwed up and killed four good dudes," said Marine Capt. Blake Smith, a helicopter pilot. "Even if you didn’t, it’s shameful.”

Hastings says the men, like many others, will spend a lifetime trying to exorcise their inner demons.

While physicians and society are more aware today of the very real emotional pain of veterans who suffer from PTS, that was not the case in the past. The second film focuses on a World War II veteran who spent years trying to come to terms with his experiences.

The Railway Man

Based on a true story, The Railway Man starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman follows the journey of Eric Lomax, a British army officer tormented by his past.
Veteran Overcomes Anger to Befriend World War II Tortureri
Penelope Poulou
May 13, 2014 6:21 PM
Based on a true story, "The Railway Man" ‒ starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman ‒ follows the journey of Eric Lomax, a British army officer tormented by his past, who meets up with his torturer decades later, eventually befriending him. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
"The Railway Man" follows the story of Eric Lomax, a World War II veteran who eventually forgave and befriended his torturer. 

After the surrender of Singapore in 1942, he was captured by the Japanese and held and tortured at a labor camp in Thailand. His wife, Patti, who he married in 1983, says it took many years to understand how that torment affected him.

“He could be extremely nice and something can trigger a total change of attitude which is totally confusing," she said. "You are walking on eggshells all the time, frightened that if you say the wrong thing or raise your voice. You can’t be angry with these people, it just reminds them too much of terrible things."

It was not until the late 1980s that Lomax was diagnosed with PTS and finally agreed to counseling.

Lomax had spent a large part of his life fantasizing about killing his nemesis, a Japanese translator who had tortured him. When they learned that Takashi Nagase had written an autobiography, Patti Lomax wrote to him on her husband’s behalf. He wrote back with an apology, explaining that he done a great deal of charity work in atonement.

In 1993, Eric and Patti Lomax went to Thailand to meet Nagase. Patti Lomax says Eric made the trip with the intent to kill his old tormenter. Instead, the two reconciled, and even after many years became friends.

“He just found that the anger drained away," his wife said, "and he said ‘Sometimes, Patti, the hating has to stop.’”

Eric Lomax died in 2012, and that realization is engraved on his tombstone.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.


New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."