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Gazette Premium Content Kansas military families also affected by PTSD

The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal/Associated Press Updated: March 30, 2014 at 9:53 pm

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Two Hutchinson sisters want people to know that post-traumatic stress disorder can also affect the children in military families.

Kristin Stowers, 12, and her sister, Kaili Stowers, 14, who attend Prairie Hills Middle School in Hutchinson, have learned firsthand about PTSD. Their father, Steve Stowers, 43, is a U.S. Marine veteran who was diagnosed with PTSD in 2010 after serving in Operation Desert Storm. He recently finished an intensive PTSD treatment program at Colmery-O'Neil VA Medical Center in Topeka.

"His PTSD was affecting me, I think, the most out of the family," Kaili told The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1mkyKpW ). "I just got quiet. I isolated myself like he was doing to himself. I snapped at my mom a few times like he did."

Kristin said she's also had problems.

"I've gotten more nervous, and like with test grades, I'm afraid if I do fail that Dad's going to harm me in some way or just say something to me," Kristin said. The two sisters now see a therapist.

Steve's wife, Angie, said their family's focus had become her husband's diagnosis and treatment, while their daughters coped as best they could.

"You know, we'd always just focused on him, so we didn't realize the after-effects, the aftershocks, of what's happening to the kids," she said. "It's not just our family that's suffering. It's all of the families (of veterans with PTSD) that are out there suffering."

Karon Cook, president of the Kansas Department of the American Legion Auxiliary, said 20 percent to 25 percent of children whose veteran-parent has committed suicide or suffers from PTSD think about taking their lives.

"The veterans get help," Cook said, "but the VA doesn't have a program for the children."

Kristin has found a way to reach out to other children who may be suffering with a parent with military-related PTSD. She's written an essay about her experience, which she's read at veterans gatherings and mental health association meetings.

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., entered Kristin's essay into the Congressional Record last week.

"I think what my sister did was very good. She's letting everyone know what's happening," Kaili said.

Kaili also said she's proud of her father for "setting a good example" by getting treatment.

"I think this is a good start for us, a good start for everyone."

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