Monday, August 13, 2007

Diagnosis: PTSD. He got help and says, "It was like pulling a raw scab off my heart."

August 11, 2007

Vet looking for helicopter to help Iraq soldiers recover

Staff Writer

DELAND -- Dallas Wittgenfeld's life after Vietnam travels two paths -- one exhilarating, the other somber.

He wisecracks about leaping out of airplanes, helicopters and hot-air balloons into mall parking lots, speedways and even the Cayman Islands -- as Thunder Chicken or Sky Pirate.

"I wore out two hot-air balloons, and the first time Volusia County ever saw Thunder Chicken was flying Grand National Winston Cup champion Donnie Allison off a hotel roof," says Wittgenfeld of Orange City.

But the two-time Purple Heart Vietnam veteran Airborne Ranger nearly cries if you ask him about his military service.

"When I came home from Vietnam, I was 20 years old, on leave. I wore my uniform with my friends and went out drinking, but I couldn't vote or buy booze anywhere -- and they made fun of me, so I got up and left," Wittgenfeld recalls.

"I was proud of what I had done, and when I came back, I thought I was a hero -- but no one else did."
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Wittgenfeld said that,
Diagnosis: PTSD. He got help and says, "It was like pulling a raw scab off my heart."

When they discover the wound of war is causing them the harm, that they will not get over it on their own, time will not wear away the memories, and they are in fact suffering from a combat wound, it is not easy to accept.

The wound is there unhealed and the infection of PTSD has set in attacking the emotions.

Their bodies, their emotions, go into a process of buidling walls in defense. There is a survival chain working together to protect them from more harm. The human body is truly amazing. While some parts of the body are going into defense mode, other parts of the body are in destroy mode because PTSD has invaded the territory. In between the time the trauma strikes and the day they finally understand what it is, defenses are strengthened. Emotions turn numb. The walls trap emotions in isolation and keep out new ones from coming in, good ones along with bad ones. The day they know, is the day a wrecking ball whacks that defensive wall and a flood of emotions flow out. Usually, they cry.

Kathie Costos

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