“PTSD? Vat in the Vorld is that?,” the old man murmured as I started telling my story.
I understand, Dr. Freud, they hadn't dreamed up the disease in those days, sir, but let me explain.
In the spring of 1944 the 95th Division was wrapping up the war in Europe. We had taken Metz in a brutal battle that had cost us 50% casualties. Our first sergeant, a fine man from Indiana, was dead from a fatal wound to the stomach. Several of my close friends had been killed in an ambush. Our regimental commander was sent back to Paris for psychiatric treatment. Then there was a brush with The Bulge, another trauma.
I was still a callow 19 year old, shaken but not battered by these events. We ended up the war by crossing the Rhine and taking Dortmund, a Cleveland-like steel town on the Ruhr, destroyed by the battering of the final surge of the war.
We were the labeled “Victory Divison.”
On VE day we celebrated with the rest of them.
We took off our steel helmets and simultaneously breathed in the fresh spring air. No guns, no carbines, no M ones. The weight was off our shoulders.
It was like being reborn, Doctor. You understand the feeling. I was alive, I had survived the war!
“Ya, ya,” he murmured, showing absolutely no emotion.
I was ready to become a human being again. I was a young buck ready to come home a hero to my beloved girlfriend, who wrote me almost every day. To my grandmother, Goldie, my twin sister and some adoring friends. I was joyous.
But there was a hitch. There always is, Doctor.
Word somehow slipped out, perhaps through WikiLeaks, that our unit would soon be moved to the port of Hamburg and shipped back to the states to prepare for the invasion of Japan!
OMG, I screamed to myself...What will I tell my mother?!
Compared to Japan, Europe was a piece of cake, Doctor Freud. I was really anxious.
I tried to pretend this was all a bad dream, Doctor.
Why me? Why the 95th? What did we do to deserve this?!
We tried to kiss it off as just a wild army-type rumor, as we climbed aboard the troop ship in late May for the trip back to Boston and wherever destiny would take us. We were the first combat division to go back.
Dr. Freud, Dr. Freud are you asleep?
You dropped your pencil! I was going to Japan, Doctor. Did you hear me?
lnvade. Japan. A terrible place! I can't even speak the language.
The old man scowled, a bored scowl.
He mumbled, “You're time is up, son. I will write you a prescription for Valium. Take two before you go bed. You'II feel better.”
But Doctor! Japan! Banzai! Kamikaze!
Unmoved, he murmured, "Stay calm, call my secretary in two weeks. Maybe I can help.”
(To be continued)