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Patrick Stewart Now Understands His Father's PTSD

Patrick Stewart, the British-born actor and star of the X-Men films, spent much of his boyhood stepping between his mother and his abusive, alcoholic father, Alfred Stewart. The turmoil dictated Stewart's childhood, and like many children of alcoholics, he became a "the perfect son."

But in 2007, Stewart began investigating his dad's life and was surprised to discover a clipping from the local paper heralding his father's return in 1940, and mentioning in a brief aside that he was suffering from severe shell shock. Then Stewart made a trip to France where he found that his father's army unit had been rushed to the front as the Germans slashed through France. Alfred Stewart and his men were caught between a marsh and a bridge, pinned down by bombing for hours. The train conductor uncoupled the engine and drove away, leaving the troops stranded.

Stewart and his men spent the next month on the run from the Germans before being evacuated. Then, despite his shell-shocked status, Alfred Stewart volunteered for the paratroopers. During August 1944 he played a significant role in the liberation of the country he had watched crumble four years earlier.

Patrick Stewart, who knew nothing about his father's military heroism and agony, said, "I was brought face-to-face with the knowledge that he was a man with experiences I was unaware of … There were reasons why he was an alcoholic and depressed at times. I've talked to people who understand post-traumatic stress disorder and described my father's behavior, and they've said, 'Absolutely classic PTSD behavior! No doubt about it.'"

After hearing the real story of his father's life, Patrick said, "My anger toward him was dissolving anyway."

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