Veteran’s Day Story in the recycle bin, San Francisco Zoo.
As I left the Zoo at San Francisco yesterday, after a rich and fulfilling Veterans’ Day/Armistice Day with my Californian family, I noticed there was a recycling bin for old maps and programmes. Looking closer, I saw a folded copy of USA Today in there too, with the headline for the story you can read on this link.
I had not heard of Jeffery Davis, but his story, his war and his postwar suffering, his suicide and the traumatic postmortem suffering his family have endured were all too familiar as I read the article this morning.
I have just completed a memoir about my own father, his war, his experience of PTS/D after he left the Navy, and how it affected all of us. There was my mother and my grandmother too, both survivors of the Liverpool blitz and the V-weapon terror in London later in the war.
All of the adults in my family were traumatised by war, and it rubs off. The article on Jeffery Davis reinforces this in my mind – that in my own loneliness, anger and alienation, I was not actually alone. It was just that nobody knew what the hell was wrong with us.
I now have some understanding of why vets turn to the bottle, to gambling, to high risk activities and to each other; and often, tragically, to taking their own lives. Anyone who wants a closer examination of this should read Karl Marlantes book, “What It Is Like To Go To War”.
When the memoir comes out in June next year (The Lost Pilot, Penguin, NZ), I hope that at least one other person might find elements of their story in there, as I have just now in the story of Jeffery Davis. My Dad did not shoot himself near a war memorial: he drank and gambled himself to an early grave, at fifty.
Veteran’s children – like the adult children of alcoholics – are truly a family, and we need to reach out to each other and bring our stories into the light.
My father, CPO William Thomas Holman, HMS Illustrious, 1944-45, TF57, Pacific.