The following excerpt describes my research into my father’s service during World War II as an airman for the Army Air Force Air Transport Command—a massive operation that supplied the troops abroad with ammunition, medicine, bombs, and money, and that ferried German prisoners and wounded soldiers—and how learning about this period in his life changed my perception of him and his wartime service.
I located a close friend, Jim Birdsall, nicknamed “Bird,” 25 years after the end of the war in Vietnam. He had the same nightmare every night until we reconnected. He wrote about them and asked me to turn them into a poem, out of which came healing and forgiveness. Here is the poem…
Our goal, as therapists, is to help veterans expand their belief systems, through the construction of an ideal self, to integrate the traumatic information of combat and discover new inspiration. Combat changed how veterans perceive the world. As a result of combat, veterans have new information regarding life’s possibilities and actualities. However, their belief systems often aren’t able to integrate the information. The new knowledge is too big; it won’t fit into their existing ways of understanding.
Everywhere I go now, I see men differently. I have loved and appreciated and felt exasperated by men in many ways —father, brothers, relatives, playmates, friends, lovers, mentors, colleagues, husband, ex-husband, son, long-term partners. I know the goodness of men. And yet, after more than a half century of living with them, I realize I am still mystified by much of their behavior.