Meet Philly’s 92-Year-Old WWII Vet Who Still Suffers From PTSD

If you’re wondering how long we’ll live with stories of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, you might want to take a look at this New York Times story about Philly resident Albert Perna, who has suffered PTSD for more than six decades since World War II—and didn’t seek treatment for it until he was 80 years old. Paula Span reports:

Back in Philadelphia, he married, raised two children, worked as a master plumber — and, for decades, endured problems that more recent generations of veterans might recognize. He had nightmares and often slept on the floor so that his thrashing and sweating wouldn’t disturb his wife. When he drove, the trees on the horizon looked like German antitank guns. Once, dozing aboard a train to Atlantic City, Mr. Perna reacted to the sudden whoosh of a passing train by diving to the floor, yelling, “Incoming!”

So Mr. Perna was 80 when he finally made his way to the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, where he began therapy with Dr. Cook and joined other World War II and Korean War veterans in a Thursday afternoon support group. “We began to understand what was happening to us,” he told me. “In your home by yourself, you figure this is just you. You don’t know other guys are going through the same thing.”

Yet even veterans who have suffered quietly for decades can benefit from the contemporary treatments offered by the V.A.. “We can help them out,” Dr. Thorp said, mentioning such options as relaxation and stress reduction training, cognitive processing therapy and exposure therapy.

Perna has found relief in the treatments, he told the Times. “I pray for these new guys coming back, because I know what they’ll go through. But at least now they know about this stuff. Nobody told me anything for 55 years.”