When false missile alert came in, 'I was back in 1967 ... seeing guys getting blown to bits'

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the 1960s, local musician Tommy D was a soldier in the U.S. Army fighting the war in Vietnam.

"Two people that were always in danger were the medics and the RTOs. When Charlie saw that he tried to take us out first," he said.

In 1967, during a mission called Operation Cedar Falls he was wounded by the enemy and friendly fire.

"When you see a buddy with white phosphorous burning their skin through backpacks, you don't forget that," he said.

Tommy was diagnosed with severe post traumatic stress disorder. Saturday's false missile warning triggered that PTSD.

"The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. It was like turning on the TV in my brain, and I was back in 1967 in Cedar Falls seeing incoming rounds and guys getting blown to bits," he said.

Doctor Ken Hirsch heads Tripler's Traumatic Stress Disorders Program. He said the erroneous missile message negatively affected many veterans.

"Some of our regular patients who have come in for group or individual treatments or in our residential program have mentioned that their symptoms were exacerbated, they were triggered by that event," he said.

Tommy told Hawaii News Now how he reacted seeing the words BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT in bold type pop up on his cell phone.

"I started shaking. I started crying," he said.

Hirsch wants other veterans who were impacted by the missile alert to call the VA to talk about it. He said how long negative effects will linger depends on the person and their level of PTSD.

"For some people it will extend for more days or even a couple of weeks," he said.

Tommy D contacted the VA for help. He hopes telling his story will encourage other veterans to do the same.

"Be strong. Stand tall. You did it before. You can do it again," he said.

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