My Border War dad
Raised by a dad with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
Angolan Border war, hero and son (iStock)

My dad served about seven years in the South African Armed Forces on the border of Angola and Namibia (formally known back then as South West Africa) and Angola.

Anyone who knows anything about the Border War will probably tell you that it was one of the most brutal wars ever fought. If you have a dad or a brother or family member who was part of it, maybe you know a bit about what they went through, or maybe you know nothing at all.

Until a few years ago there was little information and stories about the Border War, mostly because many of the war veterans chose to never speak about it after they left, but also because large amounts of documents and information was destroyed and hidden by the government

My dad only really told us bits and pieces of what he went through and never anything more than what he thought we needed to know.

During high school as part of a history assignment we were asked to do a project on South African history and to try and get in touch with people who were involved in the Border Wars.

Not knowing much about it I asked my Dad if he'd sit down with me one day and tell me what really happened.

He refused a couple of times until I told him that perhaps it would be good for him to open up and talk about it, since he'd never gone for any sort of counselling for post traumatic stress syndrome and had chosen to block out what had happened during those years. 

I remember nights when I'd hear my Dad screaming from the bedroom (he'd sleep in the guest room when he was too restless). He would shout and cry in his sleep for ages.

Sometimes it sounded like he was instructing people to run for cover. 

My mom told us that often he would jump out of the bed, pull the mattress off and hide under it.

The excessive drinking, whilst I do understand the reasons behind it, didn't help either.

Sitting down with my dad and listening to the history, the politics and the events that happened while he was there had me in shock. 

Still today I often tear up when he tries to recall some of the things that he went through.

After school I then went on to study Journalism while my dad had started keeping a diary of the things that he'd randomly remember happening during the border war.

One day he'd asked me to edit some of it and convert his hand-written content into a computer format.

I was so happy that he was finally facing his fears and expressing himself through writing, although his writing brought a lot to surface and he'd go on a bender for weeks. 

Pages became chapters, chapters became books and it wasn't long before my siblings and I were sending off copies of his writing to agents and publishers all around the world. 

My dad now has two books published (and a third on the way), both about his personal experiences in the Special Forces. 

I'm proud of him for opening up and telling his story as I know that so many of those who were involved in the border war live in constant fear of facing reality and dealing with what they went through. 

My dad is still pretty nuts, and those who don't know him well enough often assume that he's some sort of scary monster. But anyone who takes the time to sit down and chat with my dad will understand that he has the biggest heart and a long story to tell. 

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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