Book shares Aroostook County WWII hero’s battle with PTSD

By Kathy McCarty, Presque Isle Star-Herald
Posted Jan. 25, 2013, at 7:19 p.m.

The late Lt. Edward C. Dahlgren’s battle with post-traumatic stress disorder is the focus of a new book released earlier this winter by Sunbury Press titled “In the Shadow of a Mountain: A Soldier’s Struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Written by his daughter, Susan Dahlgren Daigneault, the publication relates the price paid by the Medal of Honor recipient and his family following his World War II heroics.

“My dad was one of a very few Maine men to receive the Medal of Honor for his service during WW II. He also was one of the many veterans who suffered in silence for years with the effects of PTSD,” said Daigneault.

She said by sharing her father’s struggles with the disorder she hoped other veterans might benefit.

“Given that so many of our veterans will also face a lifetime of suffering from PTSD, my book is very timely,” Daigneault said.

Dahlgren, also known as “Maine’s Sergeant York” — a reference to World War I Medal of Honor recipient Alvin York — was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman in recognition of his heroics during the war in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in August 1945.

According to Bangor Daily News archives, Dahlgren was honored for spearheading the rescue of a platoon of fellow soldiers that was surrounded during a German counterattack in France on Feb. 11, 1945. The 36th Infantry Division sergeant reportedly captured more than 20 German soldiers while killing and wounding several others during combat that day.

“I was afraid before it happened and after it happened,” Dahlgren told the BDN during an interview 20 years ago. “But in battle I just acted on the spur of the moment.”

He died at the age of 90 on May 31, 2006, at the Maine Veterans Home in Caribou.

Daigneault’s book relates the price paid by Dahlgren and his family during the years after the war.

“Because American troops are in far-off places in this world, fighting for causes that sometimes cost them their lives, and because our veterans from World War II are a dying breed, it is entirely fitting that we save the stories of our veterans so that their experiences and their voices will never be forgotten and so that current generations might learn about the horrors of war and how the impact of battle never really goes away,” explained Daigneault.

“In the Shadow of a Mountain” tells the life story of Dahlgren. It is a timely manuscript in that it details his struggles with PTSD, a condition affecting many of our military veterans returning from war zones today.

“It is a book that will help readers to know about the devastation of war and how we must always provide care and comfort for our returning veterans,” she said.

Despite coming home a hero, Dahlgren — like many other veterans — found himself haunted by the gruesome events of war. Daigneault said upon her father’s return, he lost 40 pounds, suffered from jaundice, stammered when he tried to talk and his hands “shook so badly he couldn’t hold a cup of coffee without spilling most of it on the counter or in his lap.

“He suffered night terrors in which German soldiers came back from the dead and pointed their rifles at him. For decades, he suffered in silence until another war erupted and a name was given to his troubles: post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Daigneault.

“In the end, the way he lived his life was most definitely worthy of his having survived the horrors of his war. The way Dad lived his life provides lessons for all of us on how to live well, even while struggling to do so,” said Daigneault.

For more information, visit www.sunburypressstore.com/In-the-Shadow-of-a-Mountain-9781620061497.htm. The book is also available through Amazon, both hardcover and Kindle editions, at www.amazon.com/In-Shadow-Mountain-ebook/dp/B00A71V7LI.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/01/25/news/aroostook/book-shares-aroostook-county-wwii-heros-battle-with-ptsd/ printed on April 18, 2014