“The Buried War” is a debut memoir by Bluffton resident Bill Beltz. It is the story of his large family of 10 who lived in the small town of Alliance, Ohio, in the 1950s and ’60s and how he began to make sense of the world around him.
His father, Arthur Beltz, had returned home after three years in Guadalcanal and the Solomons, the first land battle of World War II and one of the bloodiest ever fought.
A member of the Greatest Generation, Beltz’s father was one of many who would spend the rest of his life battling personal demons.
“The Buried War” is the name Beltz gives to what we now call PTSD. His father suffered terribly from the ravages of war with no attempts at remedy. Sadly, this was well before the disorder was recognized as a psychiatric condition capable of debilitating a man as surely as if he had lost a limb.
PTSD was called “shell shock” in WWI and “battle fatigue” in WWII and was not treated or even recognized as a disorder. Tragically for most, this private war had to be fought every day, alone, long after the real war had ended.
Beltz’s family endured years of constant abuse and chaos in the home. The brave and strong father who went away to war never really came back to them.
The author relates his own lifelong struggle with recurring bouts of depression and foundering in his youth as he searched for direction and purpose in his life.
Borne of remnants of the fear and anxiety of living with a man he described as “violent, abusive and unstable” as well as separation from his family as a young teen, his depression, he learned, was not a temporary illness but a disorder that would be his constant companion.
His search begins as a young teen when he leaves home to attend seminary high school in Milwaukee and later to a monastery to begin training for the priesthood. His lifestyle, with the wearing of plain brown clothing, the mandatory shaved head and the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, was a drastic change from his home life.
After attending Francisco College for a time, Beltz believed he could be a “religious” person without being a monk and decides to “take a detour and figure things out for himself.”
Back home in Ohio, after working and saving to buy a car, he attends the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and later transfers to Cardinal Stritch College, where he meets Karen, who later becomes his wife. They move to Asheville, N.C., and later to Hilton Head Island, where Beltz eventually starts a business.
In his 30-plus years living in the Lowcountry, Beltz has immersed himself in programs teaching self-management and attitude awareness and always has a book ready to read in the morning. For him, these are effective tools that often help him keep the darkness at bay.
Written in a candid and easy-to-read style, this debut memoir is moving and courageous. The author hopes there is comfort and healing for others in the telling of his story.
Glenda Harris of Bluffton is a freelance writer and editor, nature lover and aspiring novelist.