Community raises awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder

PORT TOWNSEND — On Memorial Day, people across the United States pause to remember the sacrifices that veterans made.

But for the thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who survived combat, forgetting is not an option.

“You just can’t erase that stuff,” says Cliff McFall. “It just doesn’t happen.”

McFall is a Vietnam veteran who served in the 1st Infantry Division. He now lives in Port Townsend, where, with the help of counseling and a local support group, he has come to grips with his post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

On Thursday, he will take part in a community dialogue to raise awareness of a problem that often goes unnoticed and untreated, a problem that will escalate in the next few years.

“As a society, we’re all going to be dealing with this as the soldiers come home from Iraq,” said Candice Cosler, the dialogue organizer.

“Our goal is to educate people about what the symptoms are and what the average person can do to help.”

17 percent affected

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, up to 17 percent of U.S. Iraq war veterans already have PTSD, Cosler said.

Sponsored by the Port Townsend Peace Movement, Thursday’s program includes the showing a short film “Beyond Wartime,” which gives an overview of the disorder by people who have been in combat.

“PTSD is a normal reaction to an abnormal amount of stress,” explains a woman in the film who served in Iraq.

“It’s a physical reaction of the mind and body. In essence, something breaks that changes how we react to stress forever.”

A PORT TOWNSEND community dialogue on post-traumatic stress disorder will be held Thursday, June 2, at 7 p.m. at the Masonic Temple, 1338 Jefferson St. at Van Buren St. (behind the post office). Free.

For more information, call Candice Cosler, 360-379-385-4313 or go to www.ptforpeace.info.

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