Post-traumatic stress disorder was a term coined in 1980 but experienced by many returning World War II veterans. The husband, son, or father who returned was often not the same man who had left for the war a few years ago. Even though the war was over, it was still going on in the minds of soldiers trying to reintegrate into normal life. The men suffered from:
A reliving of trauma through nightmares and memory flashbacks.
Increased arousal from sudden noises that reminded them of combat sounds.
A tendency to avoid stimuli, such as conversations about their combat experiences.
Negative thinking, such as feeling emotionally numb or guilty about one’s survival while others died.
Self-destructive behavior to forget their combat experiences, such as drinking too much.
As a result, it was sometimes difficult for the men to reconnect with loved ones. They felt that their wives and other family members didn’t understand what they had been through. Other men were now fathers to children who had been born while they were away or to children who were too young to remember them when they left. Some kids were afraid to get close to their fathers for fear that they would leave again. Life during the war was hard for the men, but life after the war had new challenges.
“Ava pretended to listen and laugh along with their conversation, but her attention was really focused on the changes to her friend. There was sadness in his face, despite his humor, and he looked and sounded like someone who had come home to the familiar only to find everything unfamiliar and displaced.”
Songbird, Chapter 53