The wounds you can’t see can hurt just as bad

Published 10:19 am Thursday, November 18, 2010

Column: Thanks for Listening

I just watched a great documentary on HBO and want to share it with you. The HBO special was called “Wartorn 1861-2010.” It deals with PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Civil War doctors called it hysteria, melancholia and insanity. During the First World War it was known as shell shock. By World War II, it became combat fatigue. Today, it is clinically known as post-traumatic stress disorder, a crippling anxiety that results from exposure to life-threatening situations such as combat.

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“Wartorn” is produced by James Gandolfini, of most notably the HBO series “The Sopranos”

This documentary shares stories through soldiers’ revealing letters and journals; photographs and combat footage; first-person interviews with veterans of World War II (who are speaking about their PTSD for the first time), the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War. It features interviews with family members of soldiers with PTSD.

One comment that I found eye-opening during this documentary is one that Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army, stated, “You’re fighting a culture that doesn’t believe that injuries you can’t see can be as serious as injuries that you can see.”

With last week being Veterans Day and next week being Thanksgiving, I thought what a perfect time to bring up the subject of PTSD and its effects. The holidays are a tough time for anyone dealing with mental illness and suicide. PTSD and suicide are on the rise for our brave men and women serving in our armed forces. I personally believe the more we can know about this disease, the more we can all help. Please make time to watch this eye opening documentary.

Times for “Wartorn” on HBO: Nov. 22 (noon, 7:30 p.m.), 27 (noon ET/12:30 p.m. PT) and 29 (4:45 a.m.), and Dec. 7 (10 p.m.)

I hope our government takes better care and that there is better understanding of PTSD now than during the past. These men and women are not cowards as was once thought. They are heroes dealing with a very serious condition. Watch “Wartorn.”

Special specials

Since we are talking about good TV shows, I think I should mention that I am a huge sap for the upcoming Christmas specials. Ever since I was little, I loved watching Rudolph, Frosty, and of course “The Christmas Story.”

Rudolph, the Red-Noised Reindeer

“You’ll shoot your eye out” is quoted a lot around my house during the holidays. I keep asking for a leg lamp every year, but my wife keeps saying no.

I also have a bit of a soft side for Bumbles the Abominable Snowman from the “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” special, as well. Speaking of Rudolph, I have always sort of thought of myself as the mayor of the Island of Misfit Toys and I can really relate to the Charlie In The Box character quite a bit.

Other great holiday classics are “White Christmas,” “Holiday Inn” and of course Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Who does not love little Zuzu Bailey saying, “Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” You just stop and picture good ole Clarence dancing a jig up in heaven.

Holiday movies are great because of the sentiment behind them. You remember watching those shows with your parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters. The shows that I mentioned all have character and heart and don’t we all just love the fact that they are absolutely timeless. So get the hot chocolate ready and the Chex mix started soon because these classics are right around the corner.

Tribune Publisher Scott Schmeltzer’s column appears every Thursday.