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.
About the Paul J. Suchcicki Veterans Acupuncture Clinic
Family Tree Acupuncture offers a free weekly community-style acupuncture clinic for veterans and their immediate families.
Many combat veterans and active duty suffer from chronic pain and/or serious acute traumatic stress – they may be having flashbacks, panic, insomnia, suicidal ideation, or any number of symptoms. The US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that anywhere from 11% to 30% of veterans screen positive for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) depending on which conflict the service member was involved. Access to mental health resources and treatment continues to be difficult for many veterans.
In response, Family Tree Acupuncture implemented The Paul J. Suchcicki Veterans Acupuncture Clinic in 2013 to provide free acupuncture to returning veterans and active duty. Groups around the country are forming to create a nationwide network of free community acupuncture clinics for this population and their families with clinics operational in Orlando and Miami as well as Atlanta, Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco and New York.
Acupuncture has been rapidly catching on as a treatment option for pain, PTSD, anxiety, depression, insomnia and other war zone-related symptoms. The US Military has now trained hundreds of Air Force, Navy and Army doctors to use acupuncture as part of emergency care in combat and in frontline hospitals as well as bases back home. The World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health recognize acupuncture as evidence-based therapy that works for many kinds of medical conditions, including pain, addiction and emotional and psychological disorders.
The following clip was taken from the documentary, Escape Fire, and gives a clear and thorough depiction of how community-style acupuncture is being used in the US Military:
According to Col. Arnyce Pock, Medical Director for the Air Force Medical Corps, acupuncture comes without the side effects that are common after taking traditional painkillers.
“It allows [some] troops to reduce the number of narcotics they take for pain,” Pock said. While Pock admits that it’s not a cure-all in every case, “it can be another tool in one’s toolbox to be used in addition to painkillers to reduce the level of pain even further.”
Raul Rojas, a participant in a similar acupuncture clinic for veterans in New Mexico has found great value in this burgeoning program and states, “I believe that because of the acupuncture treatments I have become calmer and my anxiety level has drastically come down. I’m able to sleep more restfully and longer and without nightmares or flashbacks. Acupuncture is helping me get my life back.”
“The Paul J. Suchcicki Free Veterans Memorial Clinic” is offered every Thursday evening from 5-7pm at Family Tree Acupuncture: 315 S. Palmetto Avenue, Daytona Beach FL, 32114. No appointment is necessary.