Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Rollover text informationAmerican Experience Logo
Return With Honor












spacer above content
Online Forum: 11.21.00

Do any of you suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? If so, how do you deal with the flashbacks of being a POW?
Sheena Kennedy

Answered by Captain McGrath
Sheena... I have never had flashbacks of any kind. I was a POW for 5 years 8 months. I experienced pain from both ejection injuries and from torture. No problem...you just get on with life and leave that experience behind you. Hopefully, we are all better men for having had that experience.

I do not know of any POWs with the problems you described. Please read Stolen Valor by Burkett. He talks about the abuse of medical claims by many veterans. PTSD, flashbacks, etc. strangely don't seem to bother the former POWs.

Answered by Major General Ed Mechenbier
I frequently dream about the experience, but the childhood trick of turning the pillow over still works. It's nothing that is really threatening in any way.

Answered by Lt. Colonel Kevin McManus
Sheena, thanks for your interest in RETURN WITH HONOR. Your question has come up before but generally in a more generic form about dreams or flashbacks. Rarely, if ever, have I been asked about PTSD except by medical personnel.

Not having access to individual's medical records this is almost impossible to answer. PTSD now has a formal medical definition and I don't know specifically any POW who has been diagnosed with it. Flashback implies an involuntary, disturbing memory: what memories I do have are completely voluntary and most commonly are in response to my kids' or friends' questions. There is really nothing to "deal" with.

Have you forgiven Jane Fonda and others who called you baby killers and cowards for not opposing the war in Vietnam?
David Laughlin

Answered by Major General Ed Mechenbier
No. And I still won't watch anything she does.

Answered by Lt. Colonel Kevin McManus
David, this must be the most oft asked question to me; my family, friends, acquaintances, and students almost always ask some question about Jane Fonda.

Jane Fonda's comments mean little to nothing for me: she has her opinions and is welcome to them. No forgiveness necessary. I think even the Vietnamese laughed at how easy it was to dupe her. I do take offense to remarks made by Ramsey Clark, Ted Kennedy, and others in public life who knowingly did give aid and comfort to the Hanoi regime. Their political fortunes appear to have meant far more to them than the lives of soldiers who were under oath to defend the same Constitution that guaranteed these politicians their free speech.

As I watched the film, I was impressed with the positive attitudes of all of you. Do the majority of POWs have this same attitude and what percentage of you have not been able to heal and become successful and productive members of society? What has been done to help these unfortunate ones?
Elayne Burke

Answered by Major General Ed Mechenbier
Good question and I'm glad to say we have a great answer. Very, very few of the fellows really had problems of a serious nature when we returned and those men really became more introspective and quiet rather than cynical and morose. Our reunions and a daily flow of email keeps everyone informed about those who are ill and what's happening in the larger family. Communication and friendship have served us all well.

Back to Forum

Read about the paricipants



Site Navigation

Special Features: Online Forum | A Wife's Experience | The Tap Code | About the Prisons | Missing in Action

Return With Honor Home | The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline | Gallery | People & Events | Teacher's Guide

The American Experience | Feedback | Search & Site Map | Shop | Subscribe | Web Credits

© New content 1999-2000 PBS Online / WGBH



Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: