Seventy years ago today — "a day that will live in infamy" — became a day that Depoe Bay resident Steve Sparks would live with every waking moment of his life.
And he wasn't even born yet.
It was a day that Sparks' father-to-be, Vernon H. Sparks, then 23, looked out of an open battleship porthole along with a fellow seaman, only to watch his shipmate have his head blown off his body just a few feet away.
The horrific events of Dec. 7, 1941, would change Steve Sparks' life forever. It would affect him in his childhood, his teen years, his adult and working life, and even after he retired for health reasons at age 58.
It was the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
"Watching a fellow seaman get his head literally blown off his shoulders would create a shock to the body and mind that would forever be implanted in a person's psyche," Sparks would come to say.
Now 65, retired and a six-year resident of Depoe Bay, Sparks knows all too well the tragic events of that fateful sunny Sunday morning when his father was on duty as a coxswain aboard the USS West Virginia.
"Dad, along with many other shipmates, jumped ship into an inferno of fire from burning oil," Sparks said. "While trying to save others and suffering burns, he swam to Ford Island, where he was met by Marines, who took him to a safe location for treatment of his wounds. And this experience was just a warm-up to the worst that would come later."
As witness to the unfathomable carnage in the years that followed, Vernon Sparks would never be the same. So, too, would his future son be affected. And his son's family after that.
"It gives me pause to think about this surreal event in the minds of men who were mentally unprepared for the attack," said Sparks, who was born July 6, 1946, less than a year after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and subsequent Japanese surrender that ended the bloodiest war in world history on Aug. 15, 1945.
Sparks chronicles his feelings and the impact the events of the war and the bloodshed had on his family in a recently published, critically acclaimed and well-received book titled "Reconciliation: A Son's Story" from Signalman Publishing.
The nonfiction book, released on Nov. 4, is much more than a look at military and world history, however. It's a candid and emotional first-person account of the profound impacts of war and the mental anguish it can cause to a soldier and his family.
"Every once in a while, as a publisher, I come across that rare manuscript that I just think everyone should read," Signalman Publishing President John McClure said. "Steve Sparks' book is one of those."
Sparks' first effort at writing is a heartfelt and compelling but disturbing account of an American soldier - Sparks' father - who went to war and came back indelibly changed by what he saw and experienced.
It documents what is now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the developments made in understanding the debilitating illness previously known simply as "battle fatigue."
"This is an American story about an American father who went to war and came back changed by what he saw and what he experienced," McClure said. "How this impacted his family was profound, yet unrecognized for what it was back then."
The inspiration to write the revealing story started last December when Sparks' daughter, Bianca, then 40, started asking long-held questions about her dad's childhood and family, including his mother and father.
"My kids never had a close relationship with my parents," he said. "I was in denial about how we lived in a toxic home and didn't want to share it, then discovered the PTSD problem during research, which was a big awakening. ... When I think of my dad's suffering, it's sad. It is especially sad to think about how this invisible wound impacts families for a lifetime."
Sparks said he got to know of his dad's malady as a result of receiving his father's Navy medical records diagnosing him as a victim of battle fatigue.
"He was very sick after 66 months of continuous combat duty between the pre-World War II China Sea, Pearl Harbor and Asiatic Pacific Theater, and, finally, the Korean War in the early '50s," Sparks said.
To cope, Vernon Sparks entered a psychological treatment center following WWII for approximately six to eight weeks for shock therapy and medication.
"They really didn't have much in the way of ongoing treatment for our WWII combat vets," he said. "After that, there was little or no treatment. Most used alcohol to medicate and got worse."
In his book, Sparks details how he used his own career in the booming business of information technology (IT) as therapy since it required hyper-vigilance and the ability to deal with anxiety to be successful as an executive in the sales and marketing world. He said it allowed him to experience and try to come to grips with his past before he retired at 58 in Leavenworth, Wash., and moved to Depoe Bay.
"That is when my severe anxiety got the best of me for a long time until getting a better handle on the PTSD problem and doing something about it," he said.
Sparks' first step was to put his inner feelings on paper.
"Writing is excellent therapy," he said. "The bad news is that once this is done, there is the next step of dealing with all the baggage that had been neatly contained in a box for a very long time."
Sparks, who joined the U.S. Navy as a radioman in 1963, exhibited his own symptoms of PTSD after being honorably discharged with a diagnosis of having his own mental disorder as a result of his upbringing and both his father's and his own wartime adversities.
"I thought an honorable discharge was all that was necessary to go forward in civilian life and follow my career dreams and educational goals," he said.
He learned differently when he was rejected for a post-war position in the "real world" because of the mental diagnosis on his military record. It made him better appreciate the trying experiences young men and women encounter as part of America's armed forces.
"No veteran who serves his or her country honorably, whether in combat or in a support role while in the service, should be turned away for a disability," he said.
Sparks' book not only discusses dealing with PTSD among victims and their immediate families, but is a tell-all book that should enlighten the unknowing, unaffected and unaware, he said.
While symptoms of PTSD can also occur in non-combat cases of severe trauma such as rape and child abuse, children, in particular, are at the highest risk of mental and physical abuse resulting from the legacy of war.
As one of those children, Sparks should know.
"I really didn't take any time to know my parents very much until starting to do the research for my story," he said. "I avoided them for the most part. When we were kids, there was lots of fear, so we kept to ourselves and didn't get in the way."
With the publishing of his book, Sparks fights yet another battle in combating PTSD - spreading the word to educate others on the difficulties he has faced, the trials he has conquered and the difficult road still ahead.
"Times have changed for the better in helping veterans with disabilities," he said. "I am so grateful and proud to still be around to see it happen."