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By Connee Gorman

Illustrations by Kezzia A. Crossley


I Need Dad and Dad Needs Me –

A Loving Lesson About PTSD for Families


I Need Dad and Dad Needs Me –

A Loving Lesson About PTSD for Families

By Connee Gorman

Illustrations by Kezzia A. Crossley


Copyright © 2012, Connee Gorman All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted by any means—whether auditory, graphic, mechanical, or electronic—without written permission of both publisher and author, except in the case of brief excerpts used in critical articles and reviews. Unauthorized reproduction of any part of this work is illegal and is punishable by law. ISBN 978-1-4675-4797-0


This book is dedicated to my two nephews – Greg and Mark – who have bravely served our country. And to all the men and women in our military services, past and present – with love, respect and hope for you and your families.


My name is Hank and my Dad came home last month from Afghanistan. My mom and I were soooooo happy. It seemed like he had been gone forever!

I love my mom and dad so much. Mom makes life fun. She laughs, she cuddles a lot and she makes the best spaghetti in the world. 1


Dad makes me feel safe. He is so strong and big and can lift me up over his head even though he says I am a big boy now. He reads to me every night before I go to sleep. Then he kisses me on the forehead and says, “Night, night Hank the Tank.� He calls me that because he says I am as strong as any tank he has ever seen. He says I am strong inside and out. 2


When Dad came home from the war we had a big party in our backyard. All the family came – even my cousins from Minnesota! At the end of the party we each had balloons in bright colors and we let them go. Dad had said, “Let’s release them so that we can remember all my friends who are still in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Then we watched them float into the sky until they became little dots and we couldn’t see them anymore. I looked at my dad and he looked sad. 3


I knew that Dad had been fighting in the war. My mom explained that Dad had to go fight for the United States and he had taken an oath to do that. It was kind of like the Pledge of Allegiance.

4


When we all got home I asked my Dad, “Why did you look sad when the balloons went up in the sky?” We went outside on the porch and Dad said, “I have been upset and sad a lot since I came home. I was gone so long it’s like I don’t how to start back up here at home. I don’t want to be like this, but it happens a lot to people who have been to war. 5


When I saw the balloons I realized other dads may not be so lucky to come home to their families and it makes me feel guilty to be here when they can’t.” I said, “But Dad, I want YOU… Mom and I need you.” And then I cried a little bit. Dad put his big arm around me and then he hugged me hard and said, “And I want to be with you and your mom more than you can ever imagine. I need our family.” 6


That night it was stormy and the thunder was loud. I woke up in the middle of the night soooooo scared. I had a nightmare about the big dog on the next block. When I walk past my friend Joe’s house to play, I pass by the house with the dog in the backyard. His bark is loud and he gets really close to the fence. In my nightmares he gets over the fence and runs after me, and just as he starts to bite my jacket, I wake up! 7


I’ve had this same dream before. My heart was pounding and I felt like the dog was in my room somewhere – just waiting to bite me. So I quietly walked into Mom and Dad’s room and climbed into bed between them. They were each sleeping, but Dad woke up and asked what happened. I told him about my nightmare and he said, “I bet that really frightened you. Let’s cuddle and go back to sleep. We’re safe.” 8


When we all woke up it was sunny. Since it was Saturday Dad said, “Hank – let’s go fishing!” Mom made us a big breakfast and packed sandwiches for lunch.

She even put candy worms in for a treat. She said “You can’t go fishing without worms!”

9


Dad and I went to our favorite lake and sat in the boat with our fishing poles in the water. I told Dad, “That dream is still bothering me.” Dad said, “I’m glad you mentioned that, Hank, because I have nightmares too. Almost every night I dream about the war. I dream about the noises, helicopters crashing, my friends getting hurt, my other bad memories and wishing I was anywhere else on the planet.” I asked, “Do you get scared too?” Dad said, “Absolutely Hank, everybody gets scared sometimes – it’s just part of being human. But I think the war made me more afraid. Sometimes when 10


the nightmare wakes me up, I think I am still in Afghanistan and my heart pounds and I begin to sweat.” Dad’s voice was kind of shaky. I said, “But Dad, how can I be Hank the Tank if I get scared? I mean I’m a big boy now!” Dad looked a little surprised. He put me in his lap. He said, “Oh Hank, I guess I gave you the wrong idea! You can still be strong and brave inside and out, and feel all the ways we feel. It makes us stronger to know it’s okay to feel scared once in awhile. You know, Hank, sometimes we need others to help us just like we are helping each other now. I forgot that. Don’t ever forget that, Hank.” 11


Sunday came and we went to church. Lots of people walked up to Dad to welcome him home. Mr. Henderson saw Dad and said, “Well hello! Welcome back – I hope things are going well. I just wanted to tell you that when I came back from the war it helped me to talk to other people who had been there. Call me anytime.” 12


Monday, when I got home from school, Mom and Dad were sitting on the couch talking. When Dad saw me he said, “Come here Hank, I’ve got some news for you and I think it’s going to be just the thing our family needs.” My mom smiled. Dad said, “I went to see Mr. Henderson today. He’s been to war too. And we talked and then we talked some more – until all of a sudden it was 4 hours later!” I said, “Dad – what did you talk about for so long?” Dad said, “We talked about what it was like to be in battle and all the feelings we had. He shared his feelings and I shared mine. Afterward I felt like I was lighter!” I said, “You felt like you lost 10 pounds?” He laughed and said, “Not exactly, Hank – but my heart felt lighter and I felt less worried.” 13


Mr. Henderson told me about some people and places that can help me. And there are a lot of us who need help. He told me how I can get advice and help from programs for men and women in the military. I made some calls and I am going to see them next week. And Mr. Henderson told me something he always tells himself. He said, “The sun is always there, it just goes behind the clouds sometimes.” I said, “You know, Dad, I think I know what you mean.” 14


I saw some tears in Mom’s eyes and asked if she was okay. She said, “Yes Hank, I’m really okay.” Then Mom AND Dad wrapped their arms around me and we had a “family hug.” We hadn’t had one of those since Dad came home. It felt great.

15


Dad said, “Hank, there is just one more thing I want to do today. Come with me.”

Dad took my hand and we started walking – like we were going to Joe’s house. And then I could see that big dog behind the fence. I was soooo surprised (and a little scared) when Dad turned and we started to walk to the porch. I could tell that Dad could see my face get red and my eyes get big. He knocked and a very old woman came to the door. 16


“Hank, this is Emma and she owns the big dog you have been dreaming about.” Emma stepped onto the porch and took my hand and said, “I understand my dog and you have something in common!” I could not imagine what THAT could be. She said, “Do you know my dog’s name?” I shook my head no. Emma said, “It’s Tank.” I said, “What? – Like me – Hank the Tank?” She said, “I know, isn’t it funny?” Then she said, “I’m really sorry Tank scares you when you walk by. But you know Tank has one huge fear. I said, “A dog that big is afraid of something?!” 17


18

Emma said “Yes, whenever it thunders Tank runs to my room and jumps in bed with me! Come with me.” We walked to the gate of the fence and Emma opened it. I looked at Dad to see if it was okay and he nodded. Emma said, “Tank meet Hank.” Then Tank walked over slowly and sniffed me with his big nose. I put my hand on his back and petted him. I wasn’t afraid, so I leaned down and Tank licked my face. Dad looked at Emma and then at me and said “See Hank, you both have fears and you both are strong, but most important of all – you both have love in your hearts.”


As Dad and I walked back home I squeezed his hand tight and said, “You know how much I need you?” And Dad said, “You know how much I need you?” So I guess you could say. I need Dad and Dad needs me!

The End 19


I Need Dad and Dad Needs Me –

A Loving Lesson About PTSD for Families Jean Shifrin

Connee Gorman is a mental health advocate and educator residing and working in the Midwest. She believes in a brighter future, free of stigma that begins with our children’s understanding and acceptance. To learn more about her vision, visit her at www.conneegorman.com

Kezzia Crossley grew up in a small town on the prairies of Canada. As an adult, she moved to Vancouver, BC Canada. She began drawing humorous characters that would pop into her mind. Her true passion is capturing children’s imaginations and putting smiles on their faces. Her artistic style is versatile which allows her to create a wide variety of characters. Visit Kezzia at kezziaillustration.com

Ms. Gorman has created a long-overdue story to help our military professionals’ children understand and cope with the very real PTSD issues that arise after combat deployments. Her insightful examples, expertly woven into a compelling narrative, truly reflect the tensions facing many of our military personnel and their families. We must not shield our children from these issues, but rather help them understand and be part of the solution. This book encourages exactly that approach to create a shared understanding and path to resolution. - Greg Penfield, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army It is my belief that this book should be a part of every military family’s library and in every American family’s home. I Need Dad and Dad Needs Me was written with knowledge of trauma and PTSD and how it can affect adults and children of military families. It will help guide families through the difficult transition from war to home. It is such a sweet story with a hearty message of love and understanding. As a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner and a Registered Play Therapist, I recommend this book wholeheartedly. It is a wonderful guide for families who are navigating the overwhelming feelings of living in a time of war. - Candy Smith, MS, LCPC, RPT-S, SEP, www.candysmithlpc.com

Additional Resources: www.nami.org www.nimh.nih.gov www.vfw.org www.woundedwarriorproject.org www.yellowribbonfund.com www.conneegorman.com

National Alliance on Mental Illness National Institute of Mental Health The Veterans of Foreign Wars Wounded Warrior Project The Yellow Ribbon Fund Author’s website ISBN 978-1-4675-4797-0

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