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The day that changed a Tucson man's life: August 14, 1945

Posted at 6:12 PM, Aug 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-17 21:12:57-04

August 14th, 1945 -- the day the Japanese officially surrendered, ending World War II. The nation rejoiced that day and the next one -- now known as VJ Day.

One Tucson man, just a young boy then, remembers that day vividly. The reason? His father -- a prisoner of war -- returned home from Japan. 

Richard Sense was only 10-years-old when he heard the news. He was at summer camp in California when a truck driver pulled over and yelled to him, "The War is over!"

"Well, that would be considered an unforgettable moment to say the least," Sense said.

From that moment, he couldn't wait to see his dad again. His dream was finally coming true.

"We were waiting and waiting and waiting, and finally the buzzer sounded on our apartment," he said. "And then, here he was. Just like a big skeleton, and wow, you know, this was a glorious moment."

One of the things his dad missed the most about being home? Ice cream. So, one of the first things Sense and his father did together was get ice cream in San Francisco.

"We went up to an ice cream store on Clemens street in San Francisco, and I've never seen a man eat as much ice cream in my life."

But that glorious feeling of his dad being home didn't last very long. Soon enough, Richard Sense would find out his dream would become a nightmare.

"The dream we had of our wonderful family being together again never materialized, because the war came home with my PTSD father," Sense said. "And so for a number of years, we had to walk very carefully. They didn't know what PTSD was."

There were times where he felt like his father would put him and his and his mother's lives in danger; times where they walked on eggshells; times they would hear about something his father had done.

Growing up during WWII combined with living with his post-war father took a serious toll on Sense. He, too, has struggled with post-traumatic-stress-disorder for the majority of his adult life. 

"This underlying fear when they hear a siren going off," he said. "Or for example, seeing someone in a white lab coat -- like a doctor or a dentist -- people start shaking. I find myself start shaking."

But over time, Sense explained he his PTSD has gotten a lot better. Now, in his 80's, nightmares he's had since the 1940's have gone away. 

August 14, 1945 is still a day that Richard Sense thinks should be celebrated -- even though it comes with a broken dream.

"A glorious time, a happy time, a joyous time," he said. "And, a sad time too."