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Whitco

The unseen cost of war


Families deal with combat's aftermath



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The Neill clan relaxes in the backyard of their Worcester Street home. From left, Cynthia, Lyndsey and Kaiten, with Lyndsey’s son Michael. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
August 09, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Although many families in town know someone who has returned from war in Iraq or Afghanistan, not many have the unique collection of perspectives found in the Neill house on Worcester Street.

There, mother Cynthia Neill is a psychiatric nurse working with returned vets (and is herself the daughter of a World War II vet). Her son Kaiten, 20, is an Army National Guardsman who recently returned from Iraq, but knows he could be sent back before his enlistment ends in 2012. By contrast, her daughter Lyndsey Beaupre, 26, is trying to raise two children here while her husband, Edward, serves his second regular Army tour in that country.

"When [Edward] got back, he wanted to seem like everything was alright on the surface, but everyone he was talking to was saying the same thing. They were mad all the time," Lyndsey said. "… He was the one who broke the stigma and went to seek help. He'd just gotten through it and it was time to go [back to Iraq] again."

She's referring to the common perception that military folks should be able to deal with anything on their own if they came home from the battlefield itself. Although many families don't seek help to bridge the often difficult transition back to stateside and/or civilian life, the Neills argue they should take advantage of the services that exist.

"I wanted [Edward] to talk to me about it, but he'd say, 'There's not much to say,'" Lyndsey recalled. "He was angry all the time."

To Cynthia, that's no surprise. She noted she was "waiting for it to happen. How could it not happen?"

Specifically, that anger is one of the hallmarks of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a long-term condition that could be described as the mind allowing itself to react to extreme fear now that it's safe to do so. As many vets — and some who have experienced other major threats to their well-being — know, the horrific things people can do to each other have long-term psychological impact, expressing itself in flashbacks, recurrent dreams, bodily reactions, illness, addictions and other attempts to "feel good," depression, concentration problems, relationship troubles, constant edginess and other symptoms, according to mayoclinic.com.

Those symptoms typically get worse when everyday stress is highest. They're also normal — as the website notes, having some of them "doesn't mean you have [PTSD]." What defines it as a disorder is whether it lasts for more than a month and interferes with everyday functioning.

See Wednesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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