Tag Archives: PTSD

Communities honor Audie Murphy, a true-blue NE Texas legend

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This item was published initially on KETR.org, the website for KETR-FM, the public radio station based at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

This much is likely true: When you go off to war and then distinguish yourself by becoming the most highly decorated soldier in your nation’s history, communities are likely to compete for bragging rights to be known as your designated “home town.”

So, it has been with a young Northeast Texan named Audie Murphy.

It is not a fierce battle between communities in Northeast Texas. It’s more of a friendly competition. The competitors are Greenville and Farmersville, occupying neighboring Hunt and Collin counties.

The reality is that Audie Leon Murphy was born June 20, 1925 in Kingston, a Hunt County community about 10 miles north of Greenville. He would be 95 years of age. He didn’t live nearly that long, dying in a plane crash in 1971 at the age of 45.

Greenville has a museum that carries Murphy’s name. Farmersville, though, celebrates Audie Murphy Day to commemorate his homecoming from World War II in 1945. Indeed, I have learned that Murphy used his sister Nadene Lokey’s address in Farmersville as his home when he processed out of the Army at the end of World War II.

“We were living in an orphanage” when Murphy came home from the Army, said Lokey, who I visited with briefly at this year’s Audie Murphy Day celebration in Farmersville. Lokey said her brother got “a lot of money through the sale of war bonds” in his honor. “He then bought us a two-story house over on Washington Street (in Farmersville) and he came and got us out of the orphanage and moved us into the house,” Lokey said.

What did Murphy do to earn this competition between two cities? Oh, all he did was seemingly win the European Theater of operations by himself. Indeed, the opening line in Chapter One of the book “Audie Murphy: American Soldier,” by Harold Simpson, describes the diminutive warrior as “the greatest folk hero of Texas since Davy Crockett.” To be mentioned in the same sentence with one of the Alamo heroes, well, let’s just say that Audie Murphy is walking among some mighty tall cotton.

His battlefield exploits earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. The fight for which he received the Medal of Honor resulted in him killing several German soldiers, taking others captive and saving the lives of his comrades in arms. He took control of a German machine gun and, as they say, the rest is history. He was awarded three Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit and the Legion of Honor (France’s highest military honor), the Silver Star, a Presidential Unit Citation … and dozens of other medals.

When someone asked him why he had seized the machine gun and taken on an entire company of German infantry, he replied, “They were killing my friends.” Well… there you have it.

After coming home, Audie Murphy became a film actor, portraying himself in an autobiographical film, “To Hell and Back.” He also struggled with what they called “shell shock” or “battle fatigue.” He married twice and produced two children, both of whom reportedly live in California. The women he married are deceased, according to Susan Lanning, director of the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum in Greenville. Murphy also became a singer, a songwriter and a poet.

None of Murphy’s emotional troubles dampened the communities’ efforts to claim him as their own, according to Jim Foy, a semi-retired computer software sales professional who helps keep Murphy’s legacy alive in Farmersville.

“‘Farmersville, Texas’ had been inscribed on his dog tags,” said Foy, adding that was just one indicator that Murphy considered Farmersville to be his hometown.

Farmersville stages an annual Audie Murphy Day every June 15 to commemorate the war hero’s return home from World War II. The city had a “small event” this year under the gazebo on the downtown square, Foy noted, explaining that the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the city’s usual blowout in Murphy’s memory.

This year’s celebration marked the 75th year since Murphy came home from the war. “Audie landed in Houston in 1945,” Foy explained, “then he flew to San Antonio, where they had the biggest parade they’ve ever had to honor his return. Then he drove to Farmersville, where they had a huge event.”

Foy acknowledges that Greenville has claimed Murphy, too, adding that “they have a real nice museum over there. He was born in Kingston, moved to Celeste for a time. He moved around quite a bit.”

Farmersville also has a small museum full of “World War II memorabilia and other artifacts from Murphy’s life,” said Foy. The museum usually is open the first Saturday each month but has been closed since the coronavirus pandemic broke out. “We’re hoping to get it open again soon,” Foy said.

Foy calls the rivalry over Murphy’s legacy as “friendly. We haven’t had any fist fights … yet.”

Lanning sees the “rivalry,” such as it is, a bit differently from Foy … no surprise there. Lanning said Murphy lived briefly in Kingston, briefly in Greenville but spent most of his formative years in Celeste. “His parents were sharecroppers,” Lanning said, “and they were quite poor. They moved around a lot.”

Lanning also noted that Murphy hated his first name and went by his middle name, Leon, as a boy. His military service more or less forced him to use his first name, Lanning said, which would draw puzzled looks from his friends back home, she said, many of whom had never heard the name “Audie” when referring to their old pal.

She said that Murphy “didn’t live in Farmersville but would visit his sister (Nadene) there. So, my guess is that Celeste can make more of a claim to Audie than either Farmersville or Greenville.”

Lanning prefers to suggest that since Murphy was born and came of age in Hunt County, that he is a Hunt County favorite son and doesn’t just belong to one community. She did note that Greenville had a “big parade for him when he came home” from World War II, just as Farmersville did.

Murphy’s schooling ended in the fifth grade, Lanning said. His lack of formal education did not deter Murphy from developing a significant social conscience. Lanning said that Murphy’s struggle with PTSD after World War II prompted him to talk openly about it. “He was one of the first GIs to talk about” the stress of combat, she said. Lanning said Murphy often spoke to veterans’ groups and visited vets in Veterans Administration hospitals to talk about what was known then as “battle fatigue,” Lanning said.

Even though he appeared in about 40 films, mostly under contract with Universal Studios, Murphy’s fortunes “went up and down,” Lanning said. “They even made a ‘GI Joe’ doll” in Murphy’s likeness, according to Lanning.

And so … Audie Leon Murphy’s legacy and memory live on, likely for at least as long as there are those around who honor the exploits of a hero who – just as heroes tend to do – dismisses what he did as heroic. As Murphy himself once said, “The true heroes, the real heroes, are the boys who fought and died, and never will come home.”

Audie Murphy’s fellow Northeast Texans surely would disagree.

Candidate drops out to deal with PTSD

It isn’t every day that a rising political star puts his future on hold because of post traumatic stress disorder.

That is what a young Missouri politician has done. He deserves a good word of support as he wages his struggle.

Jason Kander was running to be the next mayor of Kansas City, Mo. He had served as Missouri secretary of state and in the Missouri House of Representatives. He was considered a rising Democratic Party star. In 2016, Kander lost a race for the U.S. Senate narrowly to Republican incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt.

But before he entered politics, Kander served his country in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer in Iraq. He saw combat in that part of the world and came home suffering from PTSD and depression.

Then he decided early this month to forgo his mayoral campaign. He wants to be seek treatment for his PTSD and for a cure to the depression he experiences.

I remember when another Missouri politician, the late U.S. Sen. Tom Eagleton, was drummed off the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket in 1972 because he sought electro-shock treatment to battle his own depression. That was a shameful response to a politician’s battle — for which he said at the time he was cured.

Now we have another pol seeking treatment for PTSD and depression. My hope is that he, too, will win his own fight and then he can get back into the arena if that remains his life’s calling. Perhaps he can lend an empathetic voice to those who believe our veterans stricken with PTSD need the government they fought to protect will do its part to deliver them from the ravages of war.

We have come a long way in the way we handle these matters, don’t you think?

Nothing positive or ‘uplifting’ about PBS series on Vietnam

I can’t stop talking about “The Vietnam War.”

Everywhere I go as I circulate through Amarillo, Texas, I encounter friends with Vietnam experience or ties to those who have such experience. Our conversation turns inevitably to that landmark, epic PBS series on the Vietnam War produced and directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

Moreover, I am urging my fellow Vietnam veterans to watch the series if they haven’t seen it already. Buy it on DVD. Wait for it to be rebroadcast. Do what it takes. It’s worth your time.

One good friend of mine is married to a Vietnam War veteran. He served with the101st Airborne Division and suffered some serious wounds in the war. My friend has told me her husband suffers from serious post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his experience.

She has recorded the series for him and is urging him to see it. I gathered from a conversation we had recently that she hadn’t seen it yet, either.

“Is it uplifting?” my friend asked. My answer was direct: “Uh, no. There’s nothing positive about it. It’s pretty damn grim.”

She, too, was direct. “Well, it is what it is,” she said.

Yes. It’s also worth anyone’s time who wants to understand the nature of this conflict. Yes, we killed more of them than they did of us. It was a defeat that still pains the nation and many of those who answered their country ‘s call to duty.

As for PBS and its collaboration with Burns and Novick: The nation watched some first-rate documentary television. “The Vietnam War” was an epic production for the ages.

There he goes again … offending veterans


Donald J. Trump once said his time as a student in a military academy was just like serving in the military.

It damn sure isn’t.

Trump also said U.S. Sen. John McCain earned his war hero status only because he was captured by the North Vietnamese, who then held him as a POW for five years.

Now comes this. He seemed to suggest that combat veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder aren’t as strong as those who don’t suffer from PTSD.


This guy needs a reality check.

Veterans groups have listened to Trump’s remarks. They hoped Trump’s comments were “taken out of context.” They discovered that the reporting has been complete.

The vets say that PTSD victims need help and do not need to be told they are “weak or deficient,” according to The Associated Press.

My own father suffered a form of PTSD when he returned home from World War II. I wasn’t yet around, but my mother used to tell me how Dad would flinch at the sound of airplanes … which was a natural reaction for someone who had endured constant aerial bombardment while serving aboard ship in the Navy in the Mediterranean theater.

They called it “shell shock” back then. Dad got through it.

As the son of a combat veteran, well, I take great offense to the implication that the Republican presidential nominee has uttered in relation to this generation of combat vets.

Palin invites criticism


A former colleague of mine took me to task recently for some critical remarks I made about Sarah Palin, who endorsed Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination on the same day her son, Track, was arrested for domestic abuse.

I won’t respond to what he said, but I want to post these remarks from Kevin Drum, writing for Mother Jones magazine’s website:

“I know I said that last night’s Palin-palooza would ‘hold me for a year,’ but I guess I was wrong. Palin’s son Track was arrested Monday on domestic violence charges, and today Palin addressed this:

“‘My own family, my son, a combat vet having served in the Stryker brigade … my son like so many others, they come back a bit different, they come back hardened, they come back wondering if there is that respect … and that starts right at the top.’

“I’m not happy with liberals who use Track’s problems as a way of snickering at Sarah. Yes, when you use your kids as campaign props, you open yourself up to some of this. But parents do their best, and kids sometimes have problems. Whatever Track’s problems are, he and his family should be allowed to deal with them in their own way.

“That said, if you decide to use your son’s problems as a political cudgel, you can hardly expect to others to hold back forever. Palin should be ashamed of herself.'”

Indeed, this is the steep price any politician pays by dragging private, personal family grief into the public arena.



Palin politicizes PTSD . . . and her family’s latest crisis


There must be no barriers that will keep Sarah Palin from politicizing an event, including those that involve her family.

Palin’s son, Track, has been charged with assault. The incident allegedly involved the young man’s girlfriend and an AR-15 rifle.

Mama Grizzly’s response? She blamed President Obama for her son’s post traumatic stress disorder and his policies regarding care for veterans.


The former half-term Alaska governor happened to be at Republican presidential campaign frontrunner Donald Trump’s side Tuesday in Iowa, shrieking about how Trump was going to “kick ISIS’s ass!” while her son was being arrested and booked into jail in Wasilla, Alaska.

So she blamed the president of the United States for her son’s bad behavior.

This isn’t the first time Track Palin’s gotten into trouble because of his behavior. Recall the brawl in which he was involved in Anchorage, the one that also involved his sister, Bristol?

It might be that Track Palin suffers PTSD from his service in Iraq with an Army combat unit in 2008. If so, then he needs — and deserves — the best medical care he can find.

However, for his mother to politicize his ailment and to suggest that it’s another politician’s fault because the young man cannot control his temper goes shamefully beyond the pale.

Meanwhile, a New York veterans group has urged Sarah Palin and others to knock off the political criticism. Focus instead on the problems associated with PTSD.

As for Sarah Palin . . . your son needs help. He doesn’t need to be kicked around as a political football.

Dear Dad: You made me proud


I’ve written before about my favorite veteran.

He was my late father, Peter John Kanelis, a proud veteran of the U.S. Navy who survived the horrifying crucible of World War II.

I wrote the first time about his service two years ago.

Dad saw the bulk of his combat in the Mediterranean Sea, engaging in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He endured relentless bombing and strafing by the Luftwaffe, had the ship on which he served sunk by an Italian dive bomber, and was credited with shooting down a Juncker JU-88 German bomber while manning a .50-caliber deck gun during the Sicilian campaign.

He told me of a time he was standing guard while on shore patrol in Tunisia and he shot to death someone who had breached his unit’s perimeter. Was it an enemy soldier? No, Dad said. It was a local guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Dad was like almost all World War II vets in this regard: He didn’t volunteer much about his experiences during that war. Oh, he’d talk about it if someone asked. And yes, I asked him about those days. We talked often while I was growing up.

I learned about how he joined the Navy just a few weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, how he went through an abbreviated boot camp in San Diego as the U.S. War Department sought to get mobilized in a hurry and how he learned his seamanship skills aboard ship while steaming to Great Britain.

Mom would tell me that Dad suffered for a time upon his return from the war from a form of shell shock — which they now call “post-traumatic stress disorder.”

It would manifest itself, Mom said, when Dad would hear the sound of an airplane. He’d flinch and look up, she said. All that constant bombardment made Dad quite jumpy when he heard the sound of aircraft overhead.

He got past that period of his life.

He intended to be join the Marine Corps the day he enlisted. As luck would have it, the USMC office was closed that day; he walked across the hall and joined the Navy. I believe he would have made as good a Marine as he was a sailor.

But to be honest, I’m grateful Dad was spared the task of potentially having to storm ashore amid a hail of enemy bullets.

His Navy duty was rough enough.

Dad’s been gone for 35 years. This much hasn’t dimmed one single bit as the nation prepares to commemorate Veterans Day: I’m as proud of my father’s service to his country now as I was when I first learned about it.

'Sniper' wasn't about reasons for war

Zack Beauchamp has written on Vox.com that the film “American Sniper” whitewashes the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, suggesting that it was in response to the 9/11 attacks.

Well …


I think I’ll chime in with one more comment about the film. Then I’ll let it rest.

“American Sniper” is the story of one young man, Chris Kyle, and deployment through four tours of duty during the Iraq War. He was a Navy SEAL sniper, and he reportedly set some kind of kill record for U.S. military personnel while doing his duty.

The film tells the most riveting story possible about Kyle’s emotional struggles with being away from his young family, the post-traumatic stress he suffered and the extreme danger to which he was exposed during all those tours of duty.

I sat through the film and never once considered whether it told the complete story of the Iraq War and put the policy decisions under any kind of microscope. I do not believe that was director/producer Clint Eastwood’s intention. I believe Eastwood wanted to tell Chris Kyle’s story as accurately and completely as possible and from what I’ve read from those who knew Kyle the best — including his wife Taya — Eastwood accomplished his goal.

Zack Beauchamp’s assertion about the historical inaccuracy of “American Sniper” misses the essential point of the film.

One young man did his duty, placed himself in harm’s way, came home, and sought to return to a normal life as a husband and father.

Then his life ended in tragedy.

That was the story I saw.


Former president takes up cudgel for vets

My goodness, we have come so far as a country in lifting awareness of the needs of our military veterans.

Take the latest initiative headed by former President George W. Bush.

The 43rd president talked today on ABC’s “This Week” with correspondent Martha Raddatz about a effort he has launched through his presidential library in Dallas in conjunction with Syracuse University.


His intention is to help veterans returning from combat reintegrate into civilian life. The former president told Raddatz about the “military-civilian divide.” Civilians, said the president, don’t understand all that veterans have endured fighting for their country.

He talked of the emotion he feels when he is in the presence of these heroes, many of them he sent into combat during his two terms as president.

How far has the nation come? Many, many figurative miles.

We can go back to the Vietnam War. Did returning veterans get this kind of attention when they returned from that conflict? Hardly. They were ignored and often scorned. No need to rehash that sorry episode.

It all began to change when the Persian Gulf War vets returned home from that brief, but intense, conflict in 1991. Then came the 9/11 attacks, which led to the war we have been fighting against al-Qaida in Afghanistan and the Iraq War.

Bush wants to remove the “D” from the PTSD label. Post traumatic stress isn’t a “disorder,” said the president. It is a condition that requires the nation’s attention.

President Bush has made quite an effort to stay out of the partisan political battles that have raged since he left the White House in 2009. This battle, though, is worth his time and effort.

I am glad he is willing to fight it on behalf of our veterans.

This veteran thanks you, Mr. President.