PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Battle fatigue, shell shock, combat exhaustion are just a few of the names that have been used over the years to describe the horrors of war and it’s effects on our military men and women. Now we refer to it as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
For many combat veterans, it takes years to heal their mental injuries. Here in Bay County, a group of veterans is helping each other get through the pain with weekly support groups.
The group shares war stories, offer advice and share jokes every Tuesday at Veteran Affairs.
One of those men is Ronald Potts, a Marine Corp veteran who served in multiple wars including the Vietnam War.
He says the hostile environment back in the states brought stress on the troops in Vietnam.
“It was frustrating because we were over there protecting our families and the rest of America and they’re back here tearing everything down. We had no idea what was going on and we kind of wished we went back and stayed in a war zone. Which at that time was better than what we were coming home to,” Potts said.
Once he got back home, Potts says he struggled with PTSD but didn’t know it for 28 years.
“I retired from the service in ’82, given a little pamphlet of 3 pages from the VA saying, this is it. Have fun and I came down here and finally got an interview with a psychologist and counselor, ‘oh you have PTSD,’ Potts said.
He says though being diagnosed with the disorder actually provided answers.
“It was a great relief to know that something was wrong. It wasn’t just me, I wasn’t crazy. Like hey, this is real,” Potts said.
Potts has attended the support group for five years and says the support from the guys keep him moving.
One of the fellow veterans in the room is Brian Kinderman who was an Army pilot in Vietnam.
Kinderman also agrees, the poor treatment they received when returning home increased his PTSD symptoms.
“I think they were against the government but they never should’ve blamed the soldiers. It wasn’t their fault,” Kinderman said.
He says the support group forces him to remember things he blocked out for so many years.
“I buried it because it seemed like all of America was against what happened over there but they never knew the soldiers’ side,” Kinderman said.
The two men say the group is helping them uncover the past but also gives them hope to close their emotional wounds.
“They’re almost like brothers. They’re not just comrades but they’re tighter than that but we trust each other,” Kinderman said.
The group meets every Tuesday morning at Veteran Affairs on Richard Jackson Boulevard at 8:00 a.m. and invites all veterans who need to and join them.