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Long Arm of PTSD Haunts Children of Vets

Christal Presley, in Virginia Tech shirt, author of “Thirty Days With My Father,” suffered extreme PTSD as a result of her father’s service in Vietnam, which included counting the victims of the infamous My Lai massacre. Presley traveled to Vietnam in April 2010 with a group of veterans and children of veterans. The Vietnamese woman, bottom row, center, is the last survivor of the My Lai attack, Presley said.

Christal Presley, in Virginia Tech shirt, author of “Thirty Days With My Father,” suffered extreme PTSD as a result of her father’s service in Vietnam, which included counting the victims of the infamous My Lai massacre. Presley traveled to Vietnam in April 2010 with a group of veterans and children of veterans. The Vietnamese woman, bottom row, center, is among the last survivors of the My Lai attack, Presley said.

By Nancy Wride

Her father’s despair seeped into every waking moment, poisoning the family. By age 5, Christal Presley routinely barricaded her dresser against her bedroom door. He could go from fetal position to fury. “I’m going to the river, and I won’t be back!” he would yell, grabbing a gun.

“For the first two years of that, I was especially traumatized, and I was afraid he was not coming back,” Presley, now 35, said of her father, who threatened to kill himself twice a week. “As a young teenager, I used to pray that he would just do it. When you grow up with that, you’re faced with that fight-or-flight feeling every single day.”

It would be years before the source of her terror had a name: PTSD. And it was hers — for having grown up subjected to her Vietnam vet father’s post-traumatic stress disorder. Presley thought, “That’s crazy, how can I have symptoms of a war I never fought in?”

Upon turning 18, she fled for Virginia Tech, and for the next 13 years she did not talk to her father. Years of therapy later, and by then an instructor in the Atlanta public schools, Presley “got this idea I called ‘The 30 Day Project.’ And my Mom was so excited, because finally [he and I] were going to talk.” Read More

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