I am proud that Private First Class Francis John Eggleston, who served during the Korean War, was my brother. (We had different fathers.)
In many ways, he was one of the last casualties of the War in Korea. While he never served overseas, he was assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia, where he helped to develop new infantry weapons. His plumbing and engineering expertise put him on the team that developed an improved backpack flamethrower. According to him, it had a range of hundreds of yards.
During his times working in weapons development, he was shown dozens of films about the effects of the World War II flamethrower. He said he had to watch as German and Japanese soldiers were turned into human pyres.
While he never saw the weapon kill another human in person, the fact that he was instrumental in creating one of the most devastating infantry weapons of that time played on his mind constantly.
He came out of the service with what they would call PTSD today. The Army didn’t understand why he had recurring nightmares, often waking up screaming, covered in sweat. Since there was no PTSD therapy available back in the 1950’s. he took to drink to ease his pain.
Jack, which is what he wished to be called, was an alcoholic. I lost count of how many AA meetings I took him to. I sent him to residential rehab a few times, once for 30 days. Many times, I had to sit in a courtroom after he was arrested for DUI and watch dash-cam recordings of him too drunk to get out of his car. I always hired an attorney to keep him out of jail. As this was after my wife and unborn son were killed by a drunk driver, this was one of the most difficult things I ever did.
After one arrest, I used my contacts in the government to have him incarcerated in prison for 90 days. He came out sober, but was back to drinking in a few days.
My brother’s heart gave out in 2004. The autopsy found out that his liver was all-but-gone as well as his kidneys. He finally drank himself to death. I was able to get him buried with military honors at a new Veterans’ Cemetery right on the Delaware River in New Jersey. His grave is under a beautiful oak tree, overlooking the river.
I think of him and the many other brave men and women who died in combat or thereafter due to their mental distress. At least these days, there is some help for them in and out of the Service. God bless them and their families and God bless the living men and women who fight to keep us free and safe every day!
© 2018 Steve Bryant – No portion of this or any blog can be reproduced or copied and posted on any online site or read aloud on any audio or video media without the express permission of the author.