This story originally appeared at InspireMore.
When retired Army 1st Sgt. Seth Kastle finally returned home to Wakeeney, Kansas, for good, he brought with him what he describes as a fire in his chest.
After 16 years in the Army Reserve and deployments to Qatar, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Kastle wasn’t the same man he used to be. Now the flame of anger raged inside him, and nothing he did could douse or calm it. Outbursts were common. He couldn’t understand them, let alone control them.
What Kastle (pictured below on the far right) didn’t know at the time was that he was struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder which afflicts many veterans following their service. The disorder can manifest itself in many ways, but for Kastle, the main symptom was anger.
Unfortunately, the new father suffered for years without help. It began affecting his family, especially his relationship with his wife, Julia. “I waited until it was too late,” he said. “There have been a thousand times looking back where my wife should have left me.”
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But Julia refused to give up on her husband, and together, they finally found therapy that worked. Still, Kastle had no idea how to broach the topic with his young daughter, Raegan. Then, after one especially tough day at work, he came home and wrote a quick story about his experience with PTSD. It was left, forgotten, on his computer until inspiration struck. He heard a fellow veteran had published a book. He could do the same and not only turn his own story into a children’s book, but a much-needed resource for military families facing the same struggles.
After raising the funds to hire an illustrator via a Kickstarter campaign, Kastle saw his book “Why Is Dad So Mad?” published in 2015. The story features a family of lions who fight to overcome the father lion’s PTSD. And it’s already helped Raegan understand her father’s battle with the disorder.
“After I first read the book to my daughter, I remember her saying, ‘I’m sorry you have a fire in your chest now, Dad,” Kastle said. “She was four at the time. That’s something I’m always going to remember.”
“No matter what, when they’re mad or sad at you, they still love you,” Raegan wisely explained. “There’s always a fire in his heart, but no matter what, I know there’s love.”
Kastle has since published another book, “Why Is Mom So Mad?” in his series for children with parents in the military. He and Julia also have another daughter now, fueling his desire to make even more of a difference.
“I hope that other military families have a chance to sit down and explain to their kids that it’s not always going to be easy, but they’ll get through it,” he said. And thanks to his work, many families will have access to resources he couldn’t find for himself years ago. Way to make the world a better place for service members and their loved ones, Kastle. Thank you for your service.
Please share this story with other military families whose kids could use the book’s help.