Retired Army 1st Sergeant Seth Kastle served 16 years in Qatar, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He’s been back home with his wife and kids in Kansas for the past ten years, dealing with PTSD from his time in the field. “I struggle with anger,” Kastle told NBC news. “There’s mornings that you go into the bathroom and you look at the cup that holds your toothbrushes, and you just stare at it because you don’t know which one is yours.”
As he writes on his website, Kastle wanted to help his daughters “understand why I am the way I am now.” He couldn’t find much out there, so he decided to write his own story, Why Is Dad So Mad? He raised money on Kickstarter to find an illustrator and publish the book.
In the story, a family of lions is working to help the father lion overcome his PTSD. The father is shown as having a fire that burns inside of his chest. And yet, the lion always loves his kids.
“There’s always a fire in his heart,” Kastle’s 6-year-old daughter Raegan told NBC, speaking of her father. “But no matter what, I know there’s love.”
Kastle is working on a follow-up, Why Is Mom So Mad? for female veterans dealing with PTSD.
I have read about how PTSD makes re-entry to civilian life so incredibly tough for our soldiers. Our military trains them to kill, but doesn’t seem to do enough to help them get back to a life where they don’t have to fear sniper fire while walking down the street. Being in daily life-and-death situations leaves an indelible impression on a person’s mind. It makes it hard to relax; to let go of a deep, paralyzing terror; to not be angry, or confused. It can be hard to forget the panic, the rage, the confusion of war.
I have never read about how this struggle affects the families of soldiers, and so found myself incredibly moved by Kastle’s story. It seems clear that writing Why Is Dad So Mad? has helped his children understand him and what he’s been through. I hope that it has helped him feel a bit of peace as well. One thing is for sure, he’s done a great service to the dads and moms who have served our country on the front lines. He’s provided them a tool to communicate to their children about that fire in their heart, which, though it burns, doesn’t incinerate the love they feel for their family.
And really, his book is one any parent and child will relate to, because we all have past traumas or stresses that sometimes flare up in front of our kids. And that’s what family life is about at its core. We help one another be the best people we can be, and we help one another heal when we’ve been hurt. For soldiers returning from war, that process can be long and painful, and confusing to everyone involved. At least now there’s a way for them to help their kids see what’s going on inside them. And that’s something I think every parent will find helpful.