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Guest Post Blog by: Carol Schultz Vento
This week we continue our series “The Hidden Legacy of World War II: A Daughter’s Journey of Discovery” from Part 1:
The VA has presented typical behavior patterns of children of combat veterans with PTSD. Secondary traumatization may be present in the children of the veterans. A child picks up on the father’s trauma and PTSD symptoms. A direct relationship has been found between the father’s symptoms and behaviors of their children. An over-identified child shares nightmares and flashbacks with their dads, who are the central focus of the child’s energy.
A rescuer or “parentified” child assumes the role of caretaker, absorbing guilt about the family problems and trying to be the fixer. An emotionally uninvolved child, on the surface, seems well adjusted and performs well in school. With that coping mechanism, the child detaches from the family drama; they usually receive little emotional support and guidance from their parents. This surface appearance of high performance is a cover for the anxiety and depression that this child internalizes; symptoms that my sister exhibited.
The generation of children raised by Vietnam veterans was well aware through the media’s lopsided presentation of the “troubled” Vietnam vet that their fathers may have returned home changed men. It took much longer for children of World War II combat veterans to recognize the toll their fathers’ war had taken on their psyches. Not until Saving Private Ryan in 1998, did the reality of our fathers’ war appear on the big screen. Until then, World War II movies were mainly filmed in black and white with bloodless deaths. Chris Kaltenbach, a columnist for the Baltimore Sun, noted that Saving Private Ryan was a World War II movie like none before. Hollywood had previously depicted the “good war” as a mythic and heroic undertaking. Saving Private Ryan was graphic. People get shot and die hard, not quickly and quietly. Men’s insides spill onto the ground as they watch, helpless. Blood is omnipresent. Visual celluloid reality finally depicted our dads’ war in all its gory mess.
At the end of the twentieth century, middle aged children of the World War II combat vets slowly began to walk out of the shadows with their stories – more than five decades after VE day. Stephen Spielberg, the son of a veteran of the Pacific Theater in World War II, by exposing blood and guts and deromanticizing our fathers’ war, had unleashed the hidden turmoil of a generation. Gradually, their children were telling their stories of the reality of living with a World War II combat vet – a tale that in some cases was a far cry from the image of the perfect Greatest Generation family.
Click here for “The Hidden Legacy of World War II: A Daughter’s Journey of Discovery” – Part 1
About the author: Carol Schultz Vento is a college professor and attorney. She received her doctorate in Political Science from Temple University and her law degree from Rutgers University. Her career has included teaching political science, public administration, urban politics, and pre-law courses at Pennsylvania and New Jersey colleges. She has also held faculty and administrative positions at The Philadelphia Center, one of the nation’s oldest off campus college internship programs.
As a lawyer, Carol was a sole practitioner and a writer of numerous legal articles for West Publishing. She also is the author of numerous articles about World War II history, in addition to a recent book, The Hidden Legacy of World War II.
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