Tag Archives: PTSD

Man riding a horse in the snow

What we learn by remembering D-Day

You may recognize June 6 as D-Day, when in 1944 Allied troops invaded Normandy France, an event that would eventually end World War II.

I especially remember my friend Bill, who died in 2014. Bill served in the Army during World War II , and his unit was part of the force that invaded Normandy.

Bill wrote a memoir about his military experiences which I unfortunately did not read until after his death. I want to share some of his memories with you here.

D-DAY VET REMEMBERS NORMANDY

 

In 1943, as a 20 year old, Bill  joined the Army, deployed to England, and prepared for the invasion. What he thought would be a grand adventure turned into a nightmare which he vividly captured in his book.

Several days into the fighting on the beaches at Normandy, he was assigned to pick up and transport the bodies of fallen soldiers. Thereafter, as he worked his way across France and Belgium into Germany, he found himself dodging enemy soldiers, liberating concentration camps, dealing with angry and defeated POWs, and famished, humiliated civilians struggling to survive.  Bill described what he saw and felt this way.

2 SOLDIERS AND A JEEP

 

 

“At night I would think about the poor GI’s family when they got the news of his death. I tried not to think too much about this “dead guy” job. It seemed to go on forever.

For the next month and a half I was really alone, not attached to any outfit. I found my own food, water, gas for the Jeep and slept alone beside the Jeep in an open field. I shaved with cold water in my helmet and used my Jeep mirror to see.

The Germans were always near. I was scared I would be killed or captured. “Who knows where I am? Who would tell my mother if I died?”

In the beginning it had been exciting being alone with the invasion action all around me. But now I have panic attacks and nightmares of the dead bodies waking me as I sleep in the open field alone.

Most GI’s have other soldiers around them to feel safety in numbers. I had no one. I can’t get their dead faces out of my mind. I wait for the bright morning sun to erase the terrible images.”

 

After the war, Bill established a career as a commercial artist. Art provided not only a living for him and his family but also an outlet for dealing with the distressful memories of the war.

 

He created an extensive portfolio of drawings and paintings depicting  images of what he saw and experienced.  By expressing his feelings on canvas, he released some of their distress.

SOLDIER LYING ON THE GROUND

 

“Later I forced myself to stop thinking about the “dead guys” experience and eventually forgot it.

62 years later, in 2006, when I applied for compensation for war injury during the Battle of the Bulge, the woman who interviewed me kept telling me I was leaving something out, something from my past.

I finally remembered after much writing about my remembered events in the 1944 and 1945 war period and was diagnosed with PTSD.

I believe, the greatest event of the 20th century took place during the June 1944 D-Day Normandy Invasion. I am very proud of being a small part of that great historical event that will always be remembered.”

 

Quotes and drawings from Bill’s memoir, D-DAY VET REMEMBERS NORMANDY (copyright) used by permission of his wife

Bill was proud to be a World War II veteran and I count it a privilege to know him. He was a kind, gentle man who loved God, his family and friends. He is missed by all of us who love him.

MAN IN A NORMANDY D-DAY HAT

Bill Hart, World War II veteran

Bill also drew other subjects, like the print featured above this post. Every year he and his wife sent out a Christmas card which he illustrated.

Bill’s artwork and copies of his book are available to purchase from his wife. If you are interested, contact me here and I will put you in touch with her.

POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER-PTSD

Once known as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue”, post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, has become the most common post-military service disorder. Although it also occurs in civilians who experience severe trauma, it has  been defined, studied, and treated among current and former service members.

PTSD develops after exposure to or experiencing significant traumatic events such as interpersonal violence, death or  threat of death, serious accidents, disasters and combat.

There are 4 types of symptoms-

  • Intrusions, such as flashbacks, nightmares
  • Avoidance- isolating oneself from people and/or certain situations
  • Negative mood changes, such as irritability, anger and depression
  • Hypervigilance- being easily startled, always on edge

PTSD can also lead to depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse and suicide.

It is also frequently associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI)  and chronic pain.

The National Center for PTSD (Veterans Administration)  is dedicated to research and education on trauma and PTSD, working to assure that the latest research findings help those exposed to trauma. They offer extensive information and resources at this link

PTSD: National Center for PTSD

 

Army veteran kneeling by inscribed bricks

Raymond Oglesby at the Angel Fire New Mexico VietNam Veterans Memorial

 

 

My husband Raymond has shared his veteran story at this link

From  bullets to blessings

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man and woman at dinner

Two Words That Changed My Life

In college I participated in Chi Alpha, a faith-based student group. When I started dating  a young man of a different faith, he enjoyed coming to the gatherings with me and my friends liked him. . We were fond of each other, but his feelings grew stronger and more serious than mine.

I felt it only fair to end the relationship. We parted amicably but he left our group; it was awkward for both of us. Although I felt the breakup was necessary, I grieved for the loss of our friendship.

One evening several of us were talking when a new member of our group joined us. We knew little about him other than he had recently left the Army and started attending our college.

He looked at me and said, “Where is John tonight?” (not his real name) No one spoke as everyone looked from me to him and back to me. Apparently he was the only one who didn’t know we had broken up.

Finally, one of the girls softly explained, “They aren’t dating anymore.”

Everyone remained silent, I suppose assuming I was upset at the reminder. I wasn’t upset but I realized everyone else was uncomfortable. I didn’t want our new friend to feel bad about the mistake, so I tried to make light of it. I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head.

“That’s right,” I said smiling.  “I’m available.”

With that, everyone, including me, laughed. Thinking back now, I puzzle why I said that. It was out of character for me, a confirmed introvert, and besides, I did not need or want another romantic relationship with anyone. I was planning to attend medical school, and romance did not fit into that plan.

However, the young man took me seriously, calling me a few days later to ask for a date. And despite my reluctance to become involved, I said yes.

“What harm could it do?” I thought. “Why sit in the dorm alone on Friday night?”

That night I learned about Raymond’s past. He separated from the Army after serving for three years. He had already earned a bachelor’s degree and was attending graduate school with his veteran’s benefits. I casually asked if he had been stationed overseas. He said yes- he had served in Germany and in Vietnam. I did not realize those words also would change my life.

soldiers at a remote military base

various scenes from the firebase where Raymond was stationed in VietNam; I understood nothing about what happened there.

This was 1972 and  the American war in Vietnam was raging. The United States government needed soldiers to carry out the engagement, and was drafting them, which which they and their families  dreaded. The war was unpopular and divided our country. We watched the course of the conflict nightly on television news (no Internet  or social media then).

Raymond was the first person I knew personally who had served in Vietnam. Service members and veterans of that war were portrayed in the media as fighting an unnecessary, unjustified war at best and as baby killers at worst.

Today military service members and veterans are honored and considered heroes . Today’s veterans feel proud of what they do; not so for those who served in Vietnam.

library interior

The reading room of the library looks the same as it did 40 years ago.

Over dates at  football games, church, social events and study times our feelings for each other grew. from friendship to love. He asked me to marry him a few weeks later, but I wouldn’t commit so soon. We married about 2 years later, as he completed his master’s degree.

Soon after our wedding I started medical school, graduated and started practicing.  He pursued a career in the Information Technology industry. We raised two sons, traveled, attended church.

But our “happily ever after” did not match reality. Our marriage was often tense, unsatisfying, and distant  and we did not understand why. We did not communicate well. He felt I was demanding and controlling. I felt he was insensitive and selfish. We had to look to the past to find the reason for the pain in our present.

family skiing on mountain

one of many family ski trips

 

 

Military medicine now recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a common result of service in combat; 40 years ago it was unrecognized and untreated. There were no support groups, counselling or rehabilitative services available.

My husband said little about his military service, so for years we both suffered the effects of unrecognized PTSD. By the mid-1980s veterans’ groups pushed to recognize the service of Vietnam veterans and encouraged discussion about the psychic trauma many of them dealt with; and with that came opportunities for treatment and healing.

army veteran standing next to a floral bouquet at a memorial

We always visit the traveling Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall when it comes to our area.

 

 

Through counselling and a support group my husband faced the past and gained a will to move forward. After reading a book , A Missing Peace, written by another Vietnam veteran, he considered taking a trip back to Vietnam and after much thought and prayer, signed up, although we were both apprehensive.

He chose to travel with Vets with a Mission , VWAM,  a faith based non-profit organization whose mission is “reconciliation” between former enemies in the Vietnam war, and also within the veterans’ themselves.

By touring the country and meeting Vietnamese people in peacetime, Raymond began moving past the painful memories and creating a new history. He found a country still suffering from the after effects of many years of war, and found a new purpose for his life- to help the very country that had caused us so much pain.

man with Vietnamese boys laughing

Raymond making friends and having fun with some Vietnamese boys

 

 

That trip led to another, and another, and another- thirteen trips  serving on volunteer teams to Vietnam with VWAM.  He served by teaching the computer technology he spent years honing and mentored Vietnamese professionals as they developed skills like his.

 

 

 

I accompanied him on many of these trips, serving as physician on medical teams, treating poor Vietnamese citizens in free clinics. We made friends with other veterans and their families, and with Vietnamese people, who often respected American Vietnam veterans more than Americans do.

Raymond found “reconciliation”  for himself and we experienced it in our marriage.  It was a process and still is.

2 Corinthians 5: 18 

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself

through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

                                                                                                 motto of  VWAM

man next to concrete bunker

visiting an old war bunker on China Beach

 

 

 

As  a pre-teen I read a book about an American doctor who treated poor people in a foreign country. I developed an interest in  health care through that and other books, and decided to become a doctor. I dreamed of someday traveling overseas and treating people like he and other doctors did.

I didn’t remember anything  about him except his name. I did an Internet search and found his story- Dr. Tom Dooley. Now deceased, he served  a physician in the United States Navy and in the 1950s was assigned to direct the care of refugees- in Vietnam. (After his military service, he founded a humanitarian organization and tragically died young of melanoma.)

When I watched  the war in Vietnam on TV news,  I didn’t realize the doctor I had read about had worked there. I never imagined that I would ever go there. And I never imagined that war would indirectly help me meet my husband, and create a family that brings me joy every day.

When I said, “I’m available” I had no idea how true that would be.

man and lady dressed in dance costumes

And I never expected us to do a ballroom dance routine for an audience!

Here are links to other posts about our travels to Vietnam

The end of the war was a beginning

Tuesday Travels-Vietnam

Building medical clinics in Vietnam

We recommend Robert Seiple’s book-

A Missing Peace: Vietnam : Finally Healing the Pain 

by Robert Seiple and Gregg Lewis

 

“The gripping account of the author’s experiences with “a war without closure” as a Marine aviator and as head of a relief agency ministering in that country. Through his own search for personal and national reconciliation, he shows us the only way to find real closure and genuine healing.”

(Amazon review)(This is an affiliate link.)

I am pleased to say this post was chosen as

The Blogger's Pit Stop

Top 5 posts of 2016- #2

This week I’m sharing my top 5 most viewed posts of 2016. I’m not surprised that any of these were the most popular because a couple of them are among my favorites too. (Well, ok, they all are.) So here is number 2, one I am especially happy to share again, because it’s a love story-mine.

I believe words have power; that’s one reason this blog is named Watercress Words. And that’s why, when challenged to write a story about my most life changing decision, I wrote about

 

Two Words that Changed My Life

 

 

In college I participated in a faith-based campus group. I dated a young man of a different faith, but he enjoyed coming to the gatherings with me and was accepted by the group. We were fond of each other, but his feelings grew stronger and more serious than mine.

I felt it only fair to end the relationship. We parted amicably but he left our group; it was awkward for both of us. Although I felt the breakup was necessary, I grieved for the loss of our friendship.

One evening several of us were talking in a group when a new member of our group joined us. We knew little about him other than he had recently left the Army and started attending our college. He looked at me and said, “Where is John tonight?” (not his real name) Everyone became silent and looked from me to him and back to me. Apparently he was the only one who didn’t know we had broken up.

Finally, one of the girls softly explained, “They aren’t dating anymore.” Everyone remained silent, I suppose assuming that I was upset at the reminder. I wasn’t upset but I realized everyone else was uncomfortable. I didn’t want our new friend to feel bad about the mistake, so I tried to make light of it. I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head. “That’s right,” I said smiling.  “I’m available.”

With that, everyone, including me, laughed. Thinking back now, I puzzle why I said that. It was out of character for me, a confirmed introvert, and besides, I did not need or want another romantic relationship with anyone. I was planning to attend medical school, and romance did not fit into that plan.

However, the new young man took me seriously, calling me a few days later to ask for a date. And despite my reluctance to become involved, I said yes. “What harm could it do?” I thought. Why sit in the dorm alone on Friday night?

LARGE PLAQUE ON A BRICK BUILDING

“A Sooner Covered Wagon” hung outside of the campus student union

 

 

 

 

That night I learned about Raymond’s past. He separated from the Army after serving for three years. He had already earned a bachelor’s degree and was attending graduate school with his veteran’s benefits. I casually asked if he had been stationed overseas. He said yes- in Germany and in Vietnam. I did not realize those words also would change my life.

This was 1972 and  the American war in Vietnam was raging. The United States government needed soldiers to carry out the engagement, and the draft was active and dreaded. The war was unpopular and divided our country. We watched the course of the conflict nightly on television news (no Internet then). Raymond was the first person I knew personally who had served in Vietnam. Service members and veterans of that war were portrayed in the media as fighting an unnecessary, unjustified war at best and as baby killers at worst.

library interior

The reading room of the library looks the same as it did 40 years ago.

campus library

The campus library where we studied

 

 

 

And so over football games, church, social events and study dates our feelings for each other grew. He asked me to marry him a few weeks later, but I couldn’t commit so soon. We married about 2 years later, as he completed his master’s degree.

Soon after our wedding I started medical school, graduated and started practicing.  He pursued a career in the Information Technology industry. We raised two sons, travelled, attended church. But our marriage was tense, unsatisfying, and distant at times, and we did not understand why. We could not communicate well. He felt I was demanding and controlling. I felt he was insensitive and selfish. We had to look to the past to find the reason for the pain in our present.

family skiing on mountain

one of many family ski trips

 

 

 

Unlike the case in 1974, today military servicemembers and veterans are honored and considered heroes .  Today’s veterans feel proud of what they do; less so for those who served in Vietnam.

Military medicine now recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a common result of service in combat; 40 years ago it was unrecognized and untreated. There were no support groups, counselling or rehabilitative services available.

nam70

various scenes from the firebase where Raymond was stationed in VietNam; I understood nothing about what happened there.

 

 

My husband spoke little about his military service, so for years we both suffered the effects of unrecognized PTSD. By the mid-1980s veterans’ groups pushed to recognize the service of Vietnam veterans and encouraged discussion about the psychic trauma many of them dealt with; and with that came opportunities for treatment and healing.

Through counselling and a support group my husband faced the past and gained a will to move forward starting with a trip to visit Vietnam; by touring the country and meeting the people, he moved past the painful memories and created a new history. He found a country still suffering from the after effects of many years of war, and found a new purpose for his life- to help the very country that had caused us so much pain.

man with Vietnamese boys laughing

Raymond making friends and having fun with some Vietnamese boys

 

 

 

That trip led to another, and another, and another- thirteen trips thus far to serve on humanitarian aid teams to Vietnam. He served by teaching the computer technology he spent years honing and mentored Vietnamese professionals as they developed skill like his.

 

people looking at computers

Raymond teaching hospital staff about using computers in 1995

 

 

 

 

I accompanied him on many of these trips, serving as physician on medical teams, treating poor Vietnamese citizens in free clinics. We made friends with other veterans and their families, and with Vietnamese people, who often respected American Vietnam veterans more than Americans do.  Giving back healed him as well as our marriage.

man next to concrete bunker

visiting an old war bunker on China Beach

 

 

 

I remembered as a pre-teen I read a book about an American doctor who treated poor people in a foreign country. I learned about health care through that and other books, and decided to become a doctor. I dreamed of someday traveling overseas and treating people like he did. I didn’t remember anything else about him except his name. I did an Internet search and found him- Dr. Tom Dooley. He was a physician in the United States Navy and in the 1950s he was assigned to direct the care of refugees- in Vietnam.

When I watched  the war in Vietnam on TV news,  I didn’t realize the doctor I had read about had worked there. I never considered that I would ever go there. And I never imagined that war would indirectly help me meet my husband, and create a family that brings me joy every day.  When I said, “I’m available” I had no idea how true that would be.

married couple in Oklahoma shirts

celebrating our anniversary at our alma mater’s game

And tomorrow, we’ll review the top viewed post of 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome home heroes sign on a VA clinic

Finding Hope for PTSD, Veterans’ Bitter Legacy

The United States celebrates November 11 as Veterans Day, designated to recognize and honor people who have served in our armed forces. (This is historically Armistice Day, the end of World War I.) I remember the veterans in my life- my late father, my husband, cousins and many friends.

I especially remember my late friend Bill.  Bill served in the Army during World War II , part of the force that invaded Normandy France in June 1944. I recently read a memoir he wrote about his military experiences.

D-DAY VET REMEMBERS NORMANDY

As a 20 year old he joined the Army in 1943, deployed to England and prepared for the invasion. What he thought would be a grand adventure turned into a nightmare which he vividly captured in his book.

Several days into the fighting on the beaches at Normandy, he was assigned to pick up and transport the bodies of fallen soldiers. Thereafter, as he worked his way across France and Belgium into Germany, he found himself dodging enemy soldiers, liberating concentration camps, dealing with angry and defeated POWs, and famished, humiliated civilians struggling to survive.  Bill described what he saw and felt this way.

2 SOLDIERS AND A JEEP

“At night I would think about the poor GI’s family when they got the news of his death. I tried not to think too much about this “dead guy” job. It seemed to go on forever. For the next month and a half I was really alone, not attached to any outfit. I found my own food, water, gas for the Jeep and slept alone beside the Jeep in an open field. I shaved with cold water in my helmet and used my Jeep mirror to see.

The Germans were always near. I was scared I would be killed or captured. “Who knows where I am? Who would tell my mother if I died?”

In the beginning it had been exciting being alone with the invasion action all around me. But now I have panic attacks and nightmares of the dead bodies waking me as I sleep in the open field alone. Most GI’s have other soldiers around them to feel safety in numbers. I had no one. I can’t get their dead faces out of my mind. I wait for the bright morning sun to erase the terrible images.”

After the war, Bill established a career as a commercial artist. Art provided not only a living for him and his family but also an outlet for dealing with the distressful memories of the war. He created an extensive portfolio of drawings and paintings depicting  images of what he saw and experienced.  By expressing his feelings on canvas, he released some of their distress.

SOLDIER LYING ON THE GROUND

“Later I forced myself to stop thinking about the “dead guys” experience and eventually forgot it. 62 years later, in 2006, when I applied for compensation for war injury during the Battle of the Bulge, the woman who interviewed me kept telling me I was leaving something out, something from my past. I finally remembered after much writing about my remembered events in the 1944 and 1945 war period and was diagnosed with PTSD.

I believe, the greatest event of the 20th century took place during the June 1944 D-Day Normandy Invasion. I am very proud of being a small part of that great historical event that will always be remembered.”

Quotes and drawings from Bill’s memoir, D-DAY VET REMEMBERS NORMANDY (copyright) used by permission of his wife

Bill was proud to be a World War II veteran and I count it a privilege to know him. He was a kind, gentle man who loved God, his family and friends. He is missed by all of us who love him.

MAN IN A NORMANDY D-DAY HAT

Bill Hart, World War II veteran

POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER-PTSD

Once known as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue”, post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, has become the most common post-military service disorder. Although it also occurs in civilians who experience severe trauma, it has  been defined, studied, and treated among current and former service members.

PTSD develops after exposure to or experiencing significant traumatic events such as interpersonal violence, death or  threat of death, serious accidents, disasters and combat.

There are 4 types of symptoms-

  • Intrusions, such as flashbacks, nightmares
  • Avoidance- isolating oneself from people and/or certain situations
  • Negative mood changes, such as irritability, anger and depression
  • Hypervigilance- being easily startled, always on edge

PTSD can also lead to depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse and suicide.

It is also frequently associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI)  and chronic pain.

The National Center for PTSD (Veterans Administration)  is dedicated to research and education on trauma and PTSD, working to assure that the latest research findings help those exposed to trauma. They offer extensive information and resources at this link

PTSD: National Center for PTSD

 

My husband Raymond has shared his veteran story at this link

From bullets to blessings 

Army veteran kneeling by inscribed bricks

Raymond Oglesby at the Angel Fire New Mexico VietNam Veterans Memorial

Raymond and Dr. Aletha standing at the Panama Canal

Two Words That Changed My Life

Dear Readers,

This week I celebrate  my wedding anniversary so I am posting this story again. It is special to me so I want to share it with you today.

Thanks for being here today and every day you visit. I appreciate your time and attention to my musings.

 

 TWO WORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE

By Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

In college I participated in a faith-based campus group. I dated a young man of a different faith, but he enjoyed coming to the gatherings with me and my friends liked him.  We were fond of each other, but his feelings grew stronger and more serious than mine.

I felt it only fair to end the relationship. We parted amicably but he left our group; it was awkward for both of us. Although I felt the breakup was necessary, I grieved for the loss of our friendship.

One evening several of us were talking together when a new member of our group joined us. We knew little about him other than he had recently left the Army and started attending our college. He looked at me and said, “Where is John tonight?” (not his real name) Everyone became silent and looked from me to him and back to me. Apparently he was the only one who didn’t know we had broken up.

Finally, one of the girls softly explained, “They aren’t dating anymore.”

Everyone remained silent, I suppose assuming that I was upset at the reminder. I wasn’t upset but I realized everyone else was uncomfortable. I didn’t want our new friend to feel bad about the mistake, so I tried to make light of it. I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head.

“That’s right,” I said smiling.  “I’m available.”

With that, everyone, including me, laughed. Thinking back now, I puzzle why I said that. It was out of character for me, a confirmed introvert, and besides, I did not need or want another romantic relationship . I was planning to attend medical school, and romance did not fit into that plan.

However, the new young man took me seriously, calling me a few days later to ask for a date. And despite my reluctance to become involved, I said yes.

“What harm could it do?” I thought. Why sit in the dorm alone on Friday night?

That night I learned about Raymond’s past. He separated from the Army after serving for three years. He had already earned a bachelor’s degree and was attending graduate school with his veteran’s benefits. I casually asked if he had been stationed overseas. He said yes- in Germany and in Vietnam. I did not realize those words also would change my life.

This was 1972 and  the American war in Vietnam was raging. The United States government needed soldiers to carry out the engagement, and was drafting young men. The war was unpopular and divided our country. We watched the course of the conflict nightly on television news (no Internet then).

Raymond was the first person I knew personally who had served in Vietnam. The media portrayed service members and veterans of that war  as fighting an unnecessary, unjustified war at best and as baby killers at worst.

library interior

The reading room of the library looks the same as it did 40 years ago.

campus library

The campus library where we studied

 

 

 

And so over football games, church, social events and study dates our feelings for each other grew. He asked me to marry him a few weeks later, but I couldn’t commit so soon. We married about 2 years later, as he completed his master’s degree.

Soon after our wedding I started medical school, graduated and started practicing.  He pursued a career in the Information Technology industry. We raised two sons, travelled, attended church.

But our marriage was tense, unsatisfying, and distant at times, and we did not understand why. We could not communicate well. He felt I was demanding and controlling. I felt he was insensitive and selfish. We had to look to the past to find the reason for the pain in our present.

family skiing on mountain

one of many family ski trips

 

 

 

Unlike the case in 1974, today military service members and veterans are honored and considered heroes .  Today’s veterans feel proud of what they do; not so for those who served in Vietnam.

Military medicine now recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a common result of service in combat; 40 years ago it was unrecognized and untreated. There were no support groups, counselling or rehabilitative services available.

My husband spoke little about his military service, so for years we both suffered the effects of unrecognized PTSD. By the mid-1980s veterans’ groups pushed to recognize the service of Vietnam veterans and encouraged discussion about the psychic trauma many of them dealt with; and with that came opportunities for treatment and healing.

Through counselling and a support group my husband faced the past and gained a will to move forward starting with a trip to visit Vietnam; by touring the country and meeting the people, he moved past the painful memories and created a new history. He found a country still suffering from the after effects of many years of war, and found a new purpose for his life- to help the very country that had caused us so much pain.

man with Vietnamese boys laughing

Raymond making friends and having fun with some Vietnamese boys

 

 

 

That trip led to another, and another, and another- thirteen trips thus far to serve on humanitarian aid teams to Vietnam. He served by teaching the computer technology he spent years honing and mentored Vietnamese professionals as they developed skill like his.

 

people looking at computers

Raymond teaching hospital staff about using computers in 1995

 

 

 

 

I accompanied him on many of these trips, serving as physician on medical teams, treating poor Vietnamese citizens in free clinics. We made friends with other veterans and their families, and with Vietnamese people, who often respected American Vietnam veterans more than Americans do.  Giving back healed him as well as our marriage.

man next to concrete bunker

visiting an old war bunker on China Beach

 

I remembered as a pre-teen I read a book about an American doctor who treated poor people in a foreign country. I learned about health care through that and other books, and decided to become a doctor. I dreamed of someday traveling overseas and treating people like he did.

I didn’t remember anything else about him except his name. I did an Internet search and found information about him- the late Dr. Tom Dooley. He had served as a physician in the United States Navy and in the 1950s he was assigned to direct the care of refugees- in Vietnam.

When I watched  the war in Vietnam on TV news,  I didn’t realize the doctor I had read about had worked there. I never imagined I would ever go there. And I never imagined that war would indirectly help me meet my husband, and create a family who bring me joy every day.  When I said, “I’m available” I had no idea how true that would be.

 

What words have changed your life? I would love for you to tell me; I might even share your answer here (anonymously). Contact me here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

man and woman at dinner

TWO WORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE

 

I entered a writing contest- and promptly forgot all about it. I remembered it when I learned who had won- it wasn’t me. Not even second place. But that’s ok.

Real Simple magazine sponsored a  “Life Lessons” writing contest. The assignment was to write about

“What single decision changed your life?”

I think life consists of a series of decisions, each of which trigger a consequence, and usually another decision. As I reflected on my life, I identified several pivotal decisions, but one in particular stood out- it was simple, spontaneous and surprising.

Like I said, I didn’t win and that’s fine with me because the winning essay deserved the honor.

The winner, Diane Penney of Birmingham Alabama, wrote about “a chance encounter during her darkest hour.”

I liked the article and the author immediately. Ms. Penney and I both wrote about health issues; we’ve both spent time in hospitals ( for different reasons) and we both have sons named Ryan. And how could you not love someone who works with dyslexic children and rescues golden retrievers?

What decisions have changed your life? Please leave a comment and let me know.

 TWO WORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE

By Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

In college I participated in a faith-based campus group. I dated a young man of a different faith, but he enjoyed coming to the gatherings with me and my friends liked him.  We were fond of each other, but his feelings grew stronger and more serious than mine.

I felt it only fair to end the relationship. We parted amicably but he left our group; it was awkward for both of us. Although I felt the breakup was necessary, I grieved for the loss of our friendship.

One evening several of us were talking together when a new member of our group joined us. We knew little about him other than he had recently left the Army and started attending our college. He looked at me and said, “Where is John tonight?” (not his real name) Everyone became silent and looked from me to him and back to me. Apparently he was the only one who didn’t know we had broken up.

Finally, one of the girls softly explained, “They aren’t dating anymore.”

Everyone remained silent, I suppose assuming that I was upset at the reminder. I wasn’t upset but I realized everyone else was uncomfortable. I didn’t want our new friend to feel bad about the mistake, so I tried to make light of it. I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head.

“That’s right,” I said smiling.  “I’m available.”

With that, everyone, including me, laughed. Thinking back now, I puzzle why I said that. It was out of character for me, a confirmed introvert, and besides, I did not need or want another romantic relationship . I was planning to attend medical school, and romance did not fit into that plan.

However, the new young man took me seriously, calling me a few days later to ask for a date. And despite my reluctance to become involved, I said yes.

“What harm could it do?” I thought. Why sit in the dorm alone on Friday night?

That night I learned about Raymond’s past. He separated from the Army after serving for three years. He had already earned a bachelor’s degree and was attending graduate school with his veteran’s benefits. I casually asked if he had been stationed overseas. He said yes- in Germany and in Vietnam. I did not realize those words also would change my life.

This was 1972 and  the American war in Vietnam was raging. The United States government needed soldiers to carry out the engagement, and was drafting young men. The war was unpopular and divided our country. We watched the course of the conflict nightly on television news (no Internet then).

Raymond was the first person I knew personally who had served in Vietnam. The media portrayed service members and veterans of that war  as fighting an unnecessary, unjustified war at best and as baby killers at worst.

library interior

The reading room of the library looks the same as it did 40 years ago.

campus library

The campus library where we studied

 

 

 

And so over football games, church, social events and study dates our feelings for each other grew. He asked me to marry him a few weeks later, but I couldn’t commit so soon. We married about 2 years later, as he completed his master’s degree.

Soon after our wedding I started medical school, graduated and started practicing.  He pursued a career in the Information Technology industry. We raised two sons, travelled, attended church.

But our marriage was tense, unsatisfying, and distant at times, and we did not understand why. We could not communicate well. He felt I was demanding and controlling. I felt he was insensitive and selfish. We had to look to the past to find the reason for the pain in our present.

family skiing on mountain

one of many family ski trips

 

 

 

Unlike  1974, today military service members and veterans are honored and considered heroes .  Today’s veterans feel proud of what they do; not so for those who served in Vietnam.

Military medicine now recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a common result of service in combat; 40 years ago it was unrecognized and untreated. There were no support groups, counselling or rehabilitative services available.

My husband spoke little about his military service, so for years we both suffered the effects of unrecognized PTSD. By the mid-1980s veterans’ groups pushed to recognize the service of Vietnam veterans and encouraged discussion about the psychic trauma many of them dealt with; and with that came opportunities for treatment and healing.

Through counselling and a support group my husband faced the past and gained a will to move forward starting with a trip to visit Vietnam; by touring the country and meeting the people, he moved past the painful memories and created a new history. He found a country still suffering from the after effects of many years of war, and found a new purpose for his life- to help the very country that had caused us so much pain.

man with Vietnamese boys laughing

Raymond making friends and having fun with some Vietnamese boys

 

 

 

That trip led to another, and another, and another- thirteen trips thus far to serve on humanitarian aid teams to Vietnam. He served by teaching the computer technology he spent years honing and mentored Vietnamese professionals as they developed skill like his.

 

people looking at computers

Raymond teaching hospital staff about using computers in 1995

 

 

 

 

I accompanied him on many of these trips, serving as physician on medical teams, treating poor Vietnamese citizens in free clinics. We made friends with other veterans and their families, and with Vietnamese people, who often respected American Vietnam veterans more than Americans do.  Giving back healed him as well as our marriage.

man next to concrete bunker

visiting an old war bunker on China Beach

 

 

 

I remembered as a pre-teen I read a book about an American doctor who treated poor people in a foreign country. I learned about health care through that and other books, and decided to become a doctor. I dreamed of someday traveling overseas and treating people like he did.

I didn’t remember anything else about him except his name. I did an Internet search and found information about him- the late Dr. Tom Dooley. He had served as a physician in the United States Navy and in the 1950s he was assigned to direct the care of refugees- in Vietnam.

When I watched  the war in Vietnam on TV news,  I didn’t realize the doctor I had read about had worked there. I never imagined I would ever go there. And I never imagined that war would indirectly help me meet my husband, and create a family who bring me joy every day.  When I said, “I’m available” I had no idea how true that would be.

married couple in Oklahoma shirts

celebrating our anniversary at our alma mater’s game

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King , Jr. -words worth sharing

 

Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.

Isaiah 40:4-5

 

 

 

 

"I have a dream"

Plaque honoring “I have a dream” speech by Dr. King

On the third Monday of January, the United States observes Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as an official federal holiday.

The Reverend Dr. King led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968. His famous “I have a dream” speech, delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. will be remembered, read, and recited by people all over the country if not the world on Monday January 18.

 

“Martin Luther King’s commitment to nonviolent advocacy,  coupled with service, won the hearts and minds of many Americans. King’s public and civil advocacy,coupled with a willingness to serve the most vulnerable, brought genuine transformation. Though he did not possess all the markers of power, he brought doctoral-level training and broad cultural experience to his philosophical personalism and commitment to dignity of all people…as America’s most effective prophet…his  movement’s power was not in its social location but rather in its gospel commitment to truth, love and service. “

quoted from Gabriel Salguero,president of the National  Latino Evangelical Coalition, writing in Christianity Today ,November 2015

 

Last year I wrote a post about interpersonal violence and Dr. King’s life reminds us of its tragic effects. His life ended suddenly and prematurely when, on April 4, 1968, an assailant shot him as he stood on a hotel balcony. He had delivered his last speech just the day before. The shooter was apprehended, and after confessing to the murder, sentenced to life in prison where he died.

Most people know of Dr. King’s assassination, but don’t know his mother, Alberta Williams King, also died violently. At age 69, sitting at the organ of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Mrs. King was shot and killed on June 30, 1974. Her  23-year-old assailant received a life sentence and died in prison.

 

Violence between persons creates social, economic and political problems, and serious medical consequences. It is a leading cause of death, especially in children, adolescents and young adults.

Non-fatal injuries often cause severe and permanent disability that changes lives, burdens families and increases medical costs astronomically. These include

  • TBI, traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries leading to paraplegia, quadriplegia, ventilator dependence
  • Amputations of limbs
  • PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder; other forms of anxiety; depression
  • Chronic pain, often leading to opiate dependence

Here is the post from last year about  why and how we need to address violence in our society .

 

You can learn more about Dr. King and listen to part of his famous speech at this link at Biography.com

You can also read the full text of the speech at this link.

 

The following book suggestions lead to affiliate links which may pay a commission to this blog at no extra cost to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a biography about Dr. King written for children I Am Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am Martin Luther King book