Singer-songwriter Julia Still told a sobering story in a video only 10 seconds long, sharing photos of her grandfather before his time in World War II and after.
“Thinking about how my grandfather looked like a totally different person after serving in WWII,” Julia wrote in the Nov. 29 TikTok video as she posted the before-and-after comparison.
The before-and-after photos of Julia’s grandfather are a “clear representation” of the ravages of WWII.
In the first photo, Julia’s grandfather looks like a self-assured young man, fixing a steely gaze toward the camera. In the second photo, however, he appears gaunt and his eyes aren't as focused — the “thousand-yard stare” exhibited by so many WWII veterans — as he poses next to his wife.
“It’s the most clear representation of what war does to a man that I’ve ever seen,” Julia wrote in the photo caption. “The second picture is his wedding photo. They got married as soon as he came home.”
When a TikTok commenter observed that the man’s eyes “look so haunted” in the second pic, Julia agreed. “They do,” she wrote.
Another commenter, meanwhile, wrote, “He is so handsome before, and after, he looks… lost. Sad.”
To that, Julia replied, “It breaks my heart. He spent most of his life self-medicating with alcohol and was a pretty distant man.”
And in another comment, Julia told her TikTok audience that her grandfather wouldn’t tell anyone what he went through. “Always said he was ‘just a cook,’” she added.
Other TikTok users shared similar stories from the veterans in their families.
Elsewhere in the comments under Julia’s video, TikTok users described how war trauma impacted their family members.
“Mine aged as well,” one person wrote. “You could see in his face. He had such bad shell shock, too. I always remember people telling me to never wake him up. I miss him.”
Another user commented, “Mine came back and fed every stray animal he saw because he was a [prisoner of war] and understood their hunger after that. He was presumed dead for a while.”
A third TikToker said their grandfather fought in the Pacific during WWII. “Lived until he was 97 and always said he could still hear their screams, taste their blood, and feel the bombs,” that TikToker wrote.
Another person commented, “My grandma and mom sat up nights with my grandfather hallucinating he was in France, about to fight, 30 years later. Hid anything he could use as a weapon.”
Someone else shared, “My grandpa was on the beaches of Normandy. Never talked about it, and one day we found his draft papers. When reading them out loud, I saw that man cry for the first time.”
And there were yet more stories of shell shock. “My papa went in at 17 and came back a year after most of the men had come home,” a different TikTok wrote. “He looked completely different, too. Left a boy and came back a haunted man.”
FYI, if you’re dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, or you know someone who is, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website offers information, treatment options, and programs for service members impacted by PTSD.