Charles Stenger put his experience as a POW to direct and complete use in his life. His insights and efforts have enabled many former POWs to live comfortably with their past.
I was just going to try to tell you a little about my POW experience. Before the service, I was a small kid and simply never saw myself as a macho person. I ran track, played football, and so on, but I did not have a real macho kind of self-image. The thing that happened when I was captured, and in somehow surviving all these terrible experiences, I began to realize that I had more inner strength than I realized. However, the guys who thought they were macho, the "Let's beat the hell out of those Germans" type, for them it was a traumatic letdown. They found out they were tremendously vulnerable and simply could not continue to cope in an aggressive style as before without risking injury or death. But what surprised me was that I found out that I was stronger.
I was an extremely important person because I was a medic, and there's no more important person in such a situation as war as a medic. I did all the gory things that you read about or hear about a medic doing in wartime. So my self-esteem did not deteriorate like the others' did. But for most, they became depressed. They realized they were ineffective and powerless, at the whim of the guards, as they saw it. In contrast, I never felt helpless. I had a role still, a personality, an identity. I kept just saying to myself over and over, "I am not a prisoner of war." I was even bold enough to rattle the camp gates from time to time and order the guard to let me out, which he would do, if you had an assertive attitude. The
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Publication information: Book title: American POWs of World War II:Forgotten Men Tell Their Stories. Contributors: Tom Bird - Author. Publisher: Praeger. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1992. Page number: 37.