Second-Hand PTSD?


by Jere Beery



Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a recognized condition associated with traumatic events which an individual lives through. The diagnostic symptoms for PTSD include re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal – such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hyper vigilance. PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any life and death experience, the threat of harm or death or sexual assault. The experience overwhelms the person’s ability to deal with social and emotional personal issues or the ability to hold down a job.  In the end the person begins to battle bouts of depression, as well disassociates himself from his family or friends.  PTSD is at times a non-reversible condition that worsens with time, if left untreated.

Over the past several years Operation Firing For Effect has heard from a number of women who have gone through a divorce claiming that they now suffer from PTSD, as the result of having lived with a combat veteran. Up until now I haven’t given these claims any credence. However, now my ex-wife is claiming she suffers from combat related PTSD, as the result of living with me. Therefore, I feel compelled to address the subject.

My ex-wife claims that she suffers from the same level of PTSD that I do, and she feels that the VA should compensate her for her pain and suffering. She has even gone so far as contacting the VA hospital in Atlanta Georgia and requesting information on how she can file a claim.

For the record; Yes, I did served 3 tours during 5 military campaigns in Vietnam from 1965 until 1968. Yes, I saw combat on numerous occasions. Yes, I killed combatants who were trying to kill me. Yes, I was wounded 3 times. Yes, I was severely wounded by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) and nearly died. And yes, I have disfiguring scars which I see in the mirror every single day, which remind me of all the above. But, my ex-wife wasn’t there during any of this. We weren’t even married until 18 years after I was discharged from the Navy. She never personally experienced any of the incidents I was involved in while in the military.

Over the past several months I have spoken with doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists about the possibility of one person catching PTSD from another. The overwhelming response has been NO. A person can feel compassion and sorrow over what another has shared with them about a traumatic event, and even break down and cry. But, the reality is PTSD is not contagious. In rare cases, a person can subject themselves to a level where the person under goes a transference experience. Transference is a phenomenon in psychoanalysis characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another, excluding the physical aspect of the traumas. However, this is still a second-hand emotional connection and not first-hand trauma induced PTSD.

During the 18 years we were married, there were moments of stress, not unlike any marriage. Towards the end of my marriage there were episodes that even resembled ‘War of the Roses’. And I did share many war stories about my military service with my ex-wife. At no time did she ever indicate that hearing those stories upset her.

Now, here’s the kicker to this story. I have undergone many interviews and filled out numerous questionnaires given to combat veterans by the VA to determine whether or not they suffer from PTSD. At no time in my 45 years enrolled in the VA have I ever been diagnosed with any level of PTSD, and I do not have a PTSD rating on my VA medical records. My ex-wife assumed that since I was receiving disability compensation for my combat injuries I must suffer from PTSD also. Boy, is she in for a surprise.

The day I can honestly say that I know what it feels like to give birth, that will be the day I will agree my ex-wife somehow contracted combat induced PTSD. Frankly, I personally think my ex-wife is suffering from an extremely rare form of emotional disorder known as; PMSD, Post Marital Stress Disorder.

Author Details
Although Jere Beery only served 4 years in the U.S. Navy, he has an impressive military history. Twenty seven months of that service was in the combat waters of Vietnam. His first duty station in 1965 was aboard the USS WESTCHESTER COUNTY, (LST-1167) as a Seaman. The WESTCHESTER COUNTY was involved in many operations within the combat waters of South Vietnam and received many awards and accolades for her service. The WESTCHESTER COUNTY was the recipient of 15 Battle Stars for her 19 years of service. LST-1167 was one of only 3 ships of her type to earn 15 Battle Stars (out of over 1200 LSTs built since before WWII). Beery’s second duty station in 1967 was with the legendary PBRs of the Brown Water Navy. As a volunteer, Beery saw combat on a fairly routine basis with this elite group and their high speed patrol craft. On March 1, 1968, Beery’s patrol was ambushed by a sizeable force of NVA and Viet Cong. The boat Beery was aboard took two direct RPG hits to her starboard side badly wounding four members of the boat’s crew. Seaman Beery was the most severely wounded and not expected to live. The first RPG had exploded right where Beery was standing as he manned his 50 caliber machine gun. To this day, Beery contributes his survival to the live-saving actions of his patrol officer, LT. RICHARD GODBEHERE and his other crew members. Beery spent the next year and a half hospitalized and recovering from his wounds. THE GODBEHERE PATROL On November 1, 1968, while Jere Beery was recuperating at NAS Hospital, Jacksonville, Florida, USS WESTCHESTER COUNTY was attacked on the My Tho river. At 03:22 in the morning two very large mines were detonated on the ship’s starboard side. 25 men were killed, 17 were ship’s crew. Several of the men killed that morning were friends and former shipmates of Beery’s. This incident has gone down in history as the greatest loss of life by the U.S. Navy in a single attack during the entire Vietnam War. USS WESTCHESTER COUNTY In mid-1969, Jere Beery was medically retired from the Navy. His service record reflects 1 Bronze Star, 3 Purple Hearts, and 5 military campaigns in Vietnam. Beery was also rated totally and permanently disabled by the Veterans Administration. Over the years since Vietnam, Jere Beery has attempted to do some things many thought impossible for someone with physical injuries such as his. During the early 80s, Jere Beery, as a member of the Screen Actors Guild pursued a brief career in the motion picture business as an actor. Beery landed a few small parts in a number of movies and television programs. On several occasions, to the amazement of many, Beery even executed his own stunts. In the 1986, Jere Beery gave up his career in the movies to crusade for his fellow veterans. Since that time, veteran’s rights advocate Jere Beery has been a noted driving force in the Veteran’s Rights Movement and effort to improve services for our veterans. Beery’s efforts have been extremely well documents and many articles have been written about his quest. A few of these articles can be found on this page. You can also type the words “Jere Beery” into any search engine to find out more about Beery’s efforts. Jere Beery’s multifaceted story is truly an amazing one. From his survival in Vietnam, to risking additional injury executing stunts in the motion pictures, to fighting to protect the benefits earned by our troops, Jere Beery has forged his own trail and continues to amaze and baffle many. – Place and Date of Birth: Orlando, Fl – 03/13/48 – Raised: St. Augustine, Fl – Place & Date Enlistment: Jacksonville, Fl – 05/20/65 – Branch of service: U.S. Navy – Highest Rate/Rank: E4/PO3/Signalman Third Class – Duty Stations: USS WESTCHESTER COUNTY, LST-1167 and TF116, River Patrol Force, River Section – 511, (PBRs), Binh Thuy, RSVN – Date of Discharge: 5/14/69 – Type of Discharge: Honorable, Medically Retired – VA Rating: 100% Totally and Permanently Disabled Military Awards and Medals: – 1 Bronze Star – w/combat “V” Citation – 3 Purple Hearts – (1/5/68, 2/14/68, 3/1/68) – Vietnam Service Medal – w/1 Silver Star – (5 military campaigns in-country, RSVN) – Republic Of Vietnam Campaign Medal – w/1960 device – Combat Action Ribbon – Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon – Presidential Unit Commendation Ribbon – National Defense Medal – Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation – Gallantry Cross Medal Color, w/Palm – Republic Of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation – Civil Actions Medal, First Class Color, w/Palm Military Training: – River Patrol Craft Training, (PBR), Mare Island, CA – Special Weapons Training, Mare Island, CA – J.E.S.T. (Jungle Environmental Survivor Training) – Cubi Point, Philippines – S.E.R.E. (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape Training) – Whidbey Island, Washington State – Vietnamese Language – Mare Island, CA.
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