by Joseph Stanfill
When news of Why Is Dad So Mad? by Seth Kastle first broke on social media and NBC news I was immediately enamored by the premise. A father of two little girls who is also a combat veteran had written a children’s book. This is no ordinary children’s book, mind you, this is a book which attempts to explain Seth’s post-traumatic stress disorder to his daughters. I turned to my wife after watching the news report on Seth and said, “This is what we need.” In researching the topic of PTSD for the past five years, I had not come across such a basic yet intriguing concept. How could one possibly take something so complex and heartfelt and translate it for an innocent child? How could a combat veteran, a former drill sergeant, and a company first sergeant put things into perspective for children? Dr. Seuss had explained numerous ideas to children through his stories, and Mr. Rodgers educated three generations of Americans on kindness, courtesy, and respect via his television show. Never has an author taken on the task of expressing such an intricate issue as PTSD to children. Until now.
The book expresses the often hard to grasp ins and outs of PTSD, yet delivers it in a way that children can understand. My copy came in the mail just two days after watching the NBC feature. My wife and I read through it, and read it to my three year old son that same night before bed. He had that look of understanding on his face that kids get when they see something clearly for the first time. I knew he didn’t have a full grasp of what was going on with me, but by reading the book with him started a very difficult dialogue to have with a child. Thanks to the book, that dialogue became easier to start
When asked about his inspiration for the book Seth doesn’t mince words.
“Well, personally it’s something that I’m not proud of. It’s the thing I hate about most about myself. So I wanted to be able to explain this to my kids. So there’s this cathartic process of getting this out there and paying things forward. You’ve talked about some of the darker days that you had, you know you had help from people, and I did also. I wish I could say that I’m a self-made man and I did this on my own, but that would be a complete lie. There’s a lot that goes along with this. If I could help others have these conversations, that’s what I would like. Maybe that’s a driving factor. Things like initiating social change is obviously an issue. If you look at the way this book has taken off, I think it speaks to the tremendous need out there. There are so many people, so many families that are impacted by PTSD. Having the ability to make that impact, hopefully helping families have these conversations and helping people understand, is a pretty big driving force for me also. My process for this was, I had had a really bad day at work, and this had been in my head a long time. I came home and sat down at my kitchen table and I wrote this in about twenty minutes. It sat there for a long time. I have a good friend who lit a fire under me to make this happen.”
Writing can be therapeutic for anyone who has suffered a trauma. While not directly dealing with Seth’s diagnosis, the writing and success has been therapeutic for him.
“If anything, I would say the therapeutic part has been the feedback I’ve received from people. It’s been extremely humbling. People are saying things like, ‘This has helped me reconnect with my kids, or ‘It’s made such a difference in my life.’ That piece has been more therapeutic than anything.”
After separating from the military, many veterans still have the drive to serve others in some capacity. As Seth says:
“I know it isn’t going to last forever. I’m trying to do as much as I can right now with the spotlight I seem to have. I was gifted 1,000 copies of the book from Amazon, and I am going to try to send them directly to the OIF/OEF counselors at every major metropolitan VA hospital. This book is geared toward our generation.”
“Well, I suppose it’s because my wife is a combat veteran also. She has her baggage too. When I had the idea for the first one, I knew I could do a second, that there would be a large need for it. She’s going to coauthor the book with me, and it took a long time to get her to do that. You’ve got to think about how much you are putting yourself out there when you are doing something like this. That was tough. Without question the hardest part of all of this, it’s just like, man I’m putting all of this out there you know. –Seth has PTSD, I mean – that’s hard. My wife isn’t as comfortable with stuff like that, and I finally got her to come around. I related to her that this would mean more to women if it came from a woman. Looking back on my research, there are books out there, but everything is geared toward men. So I realized we have had a decade of war that has been fought in an asymmetrical fashion…There are these blurred lines of women in combat, and there is nothing out there for them.”
Is there any message you want to send to our readers?
“Yeah, I would encourage people to go get help. My health is better because I swallowed my pride and got help. I don’t know where I would be today if I didn’t. Taking the steps to keep my family together was the best decision I ever made. If this is something you might need, get help. I would also encourage veterans to do their homework on burn pit exposure, chemical weapons exposure, and mefloquine toxicity. These are all huge things that are going to have adverse effects on our generation of veterans.”
Not everyone who puts their story down on paper will be able to publish a book. Not everyone who relates their feelings through prose will gain an audience or impact people the way that Seth’s book has done and will continue to do. What you could gain from beginning to express yourself through writing or art is a better understanding of you, and you just might offer a glimpse of the military experience to those who haven’t lived it. That is the beginnings of changing the narrative, and engaging in personal growth from trauma.
Why Is Dad So Mad? can be ordered through Amazon.