Freed Hostages Face Family Challenges

Galanti spent most of his time in Vietnam in solitary confinement in a 7-by-7-foot room with a bucket that served as his toilet. "There were no windows, only had a peephole in the door so the guard could look in," said Galanti.

In the last two years as a POW, he and seven other Americans got out of solitary confinement. Immediately the Viet Cong let the prisoners know their lives were going on without them. One Christmas morning guards came in with a letter for a U.S. soldier. It was from his wife with news that she decided to remarry.

"There was a picture of his wife getting married in a miniskirt … next to this guy with long hair and sideburns," said Galanti. "His kids were young when he left and they were all there smiling."

Galanti says he struck it lucky in his reunion. "I was married, with no kids, thank God," said Galanti. "The ones who had kids had a real hard time when they came home -- they came back and their kids were all into drugs."

Although the culture of the 1970s probably came into play with Galanti's fellow POW families, Eth notes that many children with missing parents tend to act out. "It makes a world of difference if you're talking about a very young child, or a teenager or an adult," said Eth.

Galanti only had to get used to his wife's new personal strength and extroverted personality since he left. That, and all the movement of modern life.

"There was so much input, everything I had not seen on television for years, I hadn't walked more than 3 miles per hour," said Galanti. "It was like a big kaleidoscope in my mind -- all I want is a steak."

The Stress of Everyday Life

Unfortunately, the 15 hostages who came back from five years in the jungle may be at risk when they face that kaleidoscope of modern life.

"A lot of times they'll have trouble adjusting back to normal life because life has been so abnormal for them," said Jan Johnson, a psychiatrist at Tulane University Health Sciences Center and the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in New Orleans.

Johnson could not predict who might develop post traumatic stress disorder or not, but certain factors in the Colombian hostages' experiences could put them at risk, such as the prolonged length of the captivity, or the fact that human beings and not a disaster put them in danger. If any of the hostages had previous traumatic experiences, they could also be at a higher risk to develop PTSD.

"Sometimes the symptoms will appear pretty much immediately," said Johnson. "We've also seen cases where the symptoms appear years later."

In the meantime, Johnson encourages any of the hostages who feel out of sorts to seek help. "PTSD is probably one of our most complex psychiatric illnesses -- it's not something you want to deal with on your own," she said.

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