Paul J Suchcicki
My grandfather, Paul J. Suchcicki was a staff sergeant member of the US Air Force and a gunner with the 93rd Bomb Group, 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force during World War II. On February 24th, 1945, his B-24J liberator aircraft led a raid on the Misburg refinery near Hanover, Germany. When their plane was hit by enemy flak causing engine failure, he and his 11 crew members were forced to bail. They parachuted safely into a small village in Holland but were quickly captured by German soldiers and transported to a prison camp in Moosberg, Germany, 45 minutes outside of Munich. In a written account of his experience, my grandfather said:
“The trip [by box car] took a couple of days. We didn’t know if we were to be exterminated or where we were headed. There was standing room only and we had to take turns sitting and lying down.
[At the Moosberg prisoner of war camp,] the marches were very tough. It was freezing rain, sleeping on the ground. Marching day and night, almost in your sleep. Dysentery was terrible and the lack of food for strength made it hard to keep going on. We had on light clothing, which meant we were always freezing cold and wet a lot of the time. We didn’t ever take our boots off or we knew we would never get them back on from our feet swelling so bad…the marching seemed to go on forever.
While we were marching, we were [mistakenly] attacked by our own planes. A lot of guys were killed during these attacks. Today, if I hear a low flying plane overhead, I duck and think of the attacks when we were marching, and [about] the guys who were hit and didn’t make it back. I also dream about this at night and have to be awaken and reminded I am not there, but at home in a safe place. This is not easy for a wife to deal with.”
My grandfather spent his 21st birthday in the Moosberg prisoner of war camp and was released on April 30th, 1945 when the 14th Armored Division liberated the camp. All told, the camp held 110,000 Allied prisoners of war.
“Scenes of the wildest rejoicing accompanied the tanks as they crashed through the double 10-foot wire fences of the prison camps. There were Norwegians, Brazilians, French, Poles, Dutch, Greeks, Rumanians, Bulgars. There were Americans, Russians, Serbs, Italians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Australians, British, Canadians, – men from every nation fighting the Nazis. There were officers and men. Twenty-seven Russian Generals, sons of four American Generals. There were men and women in the prison camps …. There were men of every rank and every branch of service, there were war correspondents and radio men.” ~ “The history of the 14th Armored Division” by Joseph Carter.
My grandfather received a Purple Heart “for wounds received in action on 24 February 1945, in the European Area”, as well as a POW Medal.
Although exposure to trauma has been part of the human condition since we’ve evolved as species, it wasn’t until 1980 that the American Psychiatric Association brought recognition to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by adding it to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. As a result, veterans of war prior to this time did not have as many resources available to them as there are today to understand and treat symptoms of PTSD.
Despite the physical and emotional trauma that my grandfather endured while serving his country, he was a gentle, lighthearted, thoughtful, creative, funny, and honest man throughout his entire life. His love was unconditional, and when I decided to pursue Chinese medicine, he offered to be my first patient. At the time, he was dealing with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. He died in 2007 at the age of 86 before I had the chance to complete my acupuncture training. If he were alive today, he would have been first in line at the grand opening of Family Tree Acupuncture in Daytona Beach.
Our free veterans clinic is dedicated to my brave grandfather. May his spirit fill this room and help bring a sense of peace to each and every person who walks through these doors.
~Maggie Mejia, Acupuncture Physician