May 2015 - After two tours as an infantryman in Vietnam, Dave Dillard came home to a country that he felt didn't understand where he'd been, or how the war had affected him. The Army discharged him with no advice about the lingering mental strains of combat. His family told him to get on with his life. Some of the World War II veterans he met at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post weren't much help, either. "Just forget it," they told him.
He couldn't forget, but he moved on. He studied theater arts in San Francisco and later taught elementary school. But he gradually withdrew from friends and family. He avoided crowds and standing in lines. While mowing the lawn one afternoon, a loud noise sent him diving under a bush. Sleep was tortured. He dreamed that he'd been sent back to Vietnam for a third tour, and always he saw the same North Vietnamese soldier, his face lit up in the darkness by a rifle's muzzle flash.
"They came home, stayed quiet and tried to muddle on as best they could," says Steven Thorp, a San Diego psychologist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. "They worked really hard as a distraction, 70, 80 hours a week, so PTSD didn't really hit them full force until they retired, or the kids left the house, or they're reminded of loss through the deaths of their friends."
"What they do know is that they're different," Thorp says. "But they don't know why it happened, and they don't know how to change it." read more>>>