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A Real Story of Relationship

   Mail call was exciting for the soldiers of Vietnam. I suspect that they would have even appreciated an envelop of coupons, just to receive and open. I am told that there was always great hope for a letter from back home. Plus, if you had been “out in the bush”, you had the possibility that there might be several letters waiting for you.

     One Georgia boy received a letter that was address to “Dear Soldier”. A teenage group, from a church in Chesterfield, Virginia, decided to try a letter writing campaign. It was their way to try to encourage the Vietnam soldiers. They didn’t exactly know who they were writing to, so they would just address their letters to “Dear Soldier”.

     On the day when the 18-year-old boy from Georgia received his “Dear Soldier” letter, others were also receiving letters from the same youth group. This one was just randomly handed to him; it had been written by a 15-year-old girl in that Virginia church. She wrote to say thank you for serving; and that she was praying for the soldier that received it.

     When that Georgia soldier left Vietnam, and got out of the army, he went home to see his family in Georgia. Then, he decided to visit that church in Chesterfield, Virginia. He had kept the letter for almost 3 years, as an encouragement during tough times.

     When he arrived in Virginia and visited the church. He was also introduced to the girl who had written him the letter of encouragement. By now, she was 18 years old.

     Yep, the story doesn’t end there. They ended up dating and then got married, a little over a year later. They made their home in Virginia and still go to that same church. Now, the husband is getting close to 70.

     A few months back, his wife was diagnosed with cancer. Together, they are battling it. At home, he helps to administer the chemotherapy. That same church is an encouragement to both of them. 

     I am greatly impacted by the story of this couple. For many years now, they have traveled life’s journey together, because he was the one that received that “Dear Soldier” letter.

     I  am told that some insurance adjusters read my blog. I hope that they are able to remember that the value of a claim and the things in life should not be just measured by computers and numbers. 

     Marie Dressler, an actress born in the 1800’s, said that life is learning that “only a few things are really important”. The love story of this couple is a reminder of what is important.  

Thought I would include what happens with arguing neighbors (I know, a little borderline), for pic o’ day. 

 

A Soldier and PTSD

      George S. Patton, Jr. was a World War II General, known for his leadership and hard work. His website attributes quotes to him that describe the kind of man that made him a General. “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week”. 

     He considered himself a soldier. Such quotes as “In case of doubt, attack”, and “May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won’t”; is the kind of thinking that even appeals to us today.

     It is undisputed that he was a driven man. However, his toughness on soldiers, became his downfall. The event was known as the “Patton slap”, but was basically the “slap heard round the world”. His Wikipedia description provides a pretty good account of what happened that effected his career and how he was viewed as a soldier. The entry is called the “slapping incident”.

     In the summer of 1943,  General  Patton’s Seventh Army  was engaged in a campaign to seize control of Sicily from the Germans and Italians. History records that the heat and the pace of the “Sicily campaign”, so frustrated Patton that he wrote that he was eager “to get out of this infernal island.”

     On the afternoon of August 2,  a 27-year-old Private,  named Charles H. Kuhl, checked into the aid station, with a diagnosis of “exhaustion”. According to the medical records still available today, it was the 3rd time that Private Kuhl had been admitted.

     On August 3, 1943, Kuhl’s medical note indicates that he was in a “Psychoneurosis anxiety state- moderate to severe”.  His medical record indicates that he was given “sodium mytal” , (sodium amytal). It is a drug that is used to combat insomnia. Recipients typically become very drowsy and it lasts into the next day.

     While Kuhl was receiving this medical attention, General Patton was making his rounds among the wounded soldiers; He came across Kuhl,  and Patton saw a 1st Division infantry man,  who showed no apparent wound or injury.

     In a 1970 interview, after the movie “Patton” was released, the “South Bend Tribune” reported that Kuhl remembered that when Patton entered the hospital tent, “all the soldiers jumped to attention except me. I was suffering from battle fatigue and just didn’t know what to do.”

     Patton went around to each soldier and individually asked about their specific injuries. Patton questioned Kuhl about why he had not stood and saluted. Kuhl told The Tribune, “I told him my nerves were shot and, of course, I didn’t feel like getting up to salute him.”

     The above attachment records that the furious General began swearing at Kuhl; calling him a coward and ordering him to leave the hospital tent that was occupied by brave soldiers who had “real” battle wounds.

     The frightened Kuhl did not move, which only further enraged Patton. Patton then, according to an eyewitness, slapped Kuhl’s face with a glove, raised him to his feet by the scruff of his neck and forced him out of the medical tent, with a final “kick in the rear.” Patton ordered the private to return to his unit and told the doctors not to re-admit him to the hospital.

     Kuhl fled from the tent and hid until Patton left the hospital. The soldier was then picked up by Corpsmen and returned to the ward tent and was admitted for acute anxiety, chronic diarrhea, malaria and a  fever with a 102.2 temperature. He suffered with malarial parasites and diarrhea for over a month.   Two days later, Patton ordered that Seventh Army soldiers alleging shell shock, not be admitted to hospitals; and that those who refused to fight would be court-martialed “for cowardice in the face of the enemy.”

       Word of the slap, did not make it back to the United States for a few months. History indicates that this allegedly was not the only soldier that Patton had slapped.

     Realizing that striking an enlisted man was a court-martial offense, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Patton’s senior commander, needed to both punish Patton and prevent the incident from causing a stir back home. Eisenhower was faced with a dilemma. He didn’t want to lose a general,  so crucial to the war effort. At one point, radio reports claimed that Eisenhower was attempting to cover it up.

      Eisenhower then knew that he had to take public actions. As part of Patton’s punishment, Eisenhower formally censured him, saying that he did not condone brutality or uncontrollable temper in front of the enlisted men. Eisenhower ordered Patton to publicly apologize for his actions.

     On Aug. 22, Patton summoned all of the Seventh Army to Palermo to publicly apologize for his actions. Beyond his public apology, Patton also personally apologized to Kuhl. He told the private that his slapping and verbal abuse were intended to motivate Kuhl to fight. General Patton asked Kuhl to shake his hand in forgiveness. An observer noted that Kuhl grinned enthusiastically and shook Patton’s hand.

     The slapping incident nearly ended Patton’s military career. He remained in the European war theater, but was never given a major command. Patton died in December 1945 from injuries suffered in an automobile accident in Luxembourg. Charles Kuhl returned to the Michiana area and worked at Bendix. He died in Mishawaka on Jan. 31, 1971, and is buried in Mishawaka’s Fairview Cemetery.

     Next Monday, we will honor and remember our war heroes. One book “Shell Shock to PTSD“, considers many of the injuries that soldiers suffered, from 1900 to 2005; Many of those injuries were like those that were suffered by Private Kuhl, that went undiagnosed during and after all the wars during that period.

     Trauma and psychiatric injuries were undiagnosed, when war Veterans returned back to society. Brain injury and long lasting effects were not treated because these injuries couldn’t be seen.

     It is estimated that 30 out of 100 Vietnam veterans, suffered the effects of PTSD, At least 15 out of every 100 that returned from Iraq, were dealing with symptoms of PTSD.

     In WWII, they were just treating soldiers, like Private Kuhl, with something to help them sleep. Then, they were sent right back out to the battlefield, which is why someone like Kuhl, returned to the battlefield again and again.   The indication is that, perhaps, even General Patton was suffering from symptoms of exhaustion that could have been PTSD. 

       What we now recognize as PTSD, used to be called or simply known as “shell shcok”, “combat fatigue” or “war neurosis”. We now know that these conditions  need continuing and long term care.

     In facing budget issues and what kind of medical care that our military and our Veterans deserve; politicians and the public are now aware of the need. It’s just a question of what can and will be done.  As a nation, what are we really going to do for those that we honor on Memorial Day.


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