DISCOVERING LEE MARVIN’S PTSD

Between the solemnity of Memorial Day and the honor bestowed upon Veterans Day, another day could be set aside for those who served in combat and survived physically, but suffer with PTSD, every day of their lives. Why such a day? Because the numbers are staggering. I discovered through my research of Lee Marvin Point Blank that anyone who has ever experienced combat lives with PTSD. Believe me, I’m no expert on the subject but once I began researching Lee Marvin’s life and work certain patterns began to emerge. These patterns were the result of the interviews I conducted with individuals who were the most intimate with him, such as his brother, first wife, son, and so on. They were the ones who set me on the path of looking into his probable PTSD as they told me of his night sweats, screaming nightmares, trauma-triggered alcohol binges, survivor guilt, and more.

Artist Thomas Lea powerfully captures what the Marines called, “The Gooney-Bird Stare,” in the midst of one soldier’s ongoing nightmare in the jungles of the South pacific during WWII.

Not being an expert, I of course set out to find what I could via the internet and the like. Surprisingly, the best data came from a most unlikely source. My father had been a member of Jewish War Veterans (JWV), but when the membership of his chapter dwindled, he reluctantly joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). As a member, he received their monthly magazine through 2010, even after he passed away from Alzeheimer’s in 2005…as did his two combat veteran older brothers before him. I wonder if their experiences hastened their demise?
It was the April, 2009, issue of VFW that helped me understand what Marvin experienced. Historian Thomas Childers’ decades-long research into the phenomena as it specifically effected WWII veterans is exactly what I needed to set me on the path of understanding Lee Marvin’s war-induced trauma. As he wrote in the table of contents: “For far too long, the myth has persisted that all WWII veterans came home and readjusted without a hitch. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The article helped me immensely in understanding Lee Marvin and that understanding helped make Lee Marvin Point Blank a better book. I’ve been chided on occasion with negative comments on Amazon and the like that my research did not apply to Marvin. Really? Read Childers’ full article below (marked by highlights that helped my research) and read Lee Marvin Point Blank and tell me I’m wrong. Until then, may we never have to have any generation be scarred with the trauma of war. It’s a worthy goal.
-Dwayne Epstein

VFW cover

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