They come into our office at the VA hospital in Montrose, N.Y., hesitantly. Eyes filled with doubt, hands restless. They want us to help them file compensation claims for disabilities resulting from their military service. Some have debilitating physical injuries, but almost every one also displays mannerisms — fidgeting in their seats, knees bobbing up and down during interviews, avoiding eye contact — that indicate that they have PTSD. The symptoms jump out at me because I have lived with PTSD for more than 70 years.
As a 91-year-old World War II veteran, I am not the most obvious choice to help these Iraq and Afghanistan vets, some of them almost four times my junior. In many ways, we fought vastly different wars, and more importantly, we experienced vastly different homecomings. But I can persuade them to talk by being forthright about my own decades-long battle with PTSD.