Albany woman suffers mental stress from Korean shoot down -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Albany woman suffers mental stress from Korean shoot down

March 5, 2003

Albany -- Not all victims of war suffer physical wounds. Some people are injured for life mentally. One Albany woman has suffered from depression since 1969. Last weekend's North Korea interception of an American reconnaissance plane increased her panic attacks, bringing back memories that have haunted her.

 Stephanie Thornton still has the Hymnal, and Stars and Stripes newspapers from April 17, 1969. She also bears mental scars, when North Korea shot down a U.S. reconnaissance plane over international waters, killing all 31 crew members aboard.

 Because of a knee injury, her husband at the time was not on that plane. Thornton said "He was in the emergency room after surgery, when his plane went down."

 Edward McKeller and his then wife Stephanie were stationed in Japan in 1969. Another hydraulic specialist flew in his place that day, and was killed when the plane was destroyed. Stephanie says the crew was like a family.She and McKeller were never the same. Thornton said "Our whole lives changed. I ended up going to a Psychiatrist on base. My husband changed completely. He became a person I didn't even know."

 Thornton at the time was helping treat American soldiers wounded in Vietnam. She has been treated for Depression and Anxiety Disorders for 33 years, because she can not forget. Thornton said "I go through this about once a week. But this is the first time I've gone through it about this in a while."

Stephanie Thornton admits she thought of suicide when she heard the news of this weekend's North Korea provocation. It brought back mainly painful memories, that have crippled her for 33 years.

Today Thornton's son Staff Sgt. Matthew McKeller is stationed in Germany. Her niece Lakesha Grant is a 19 year old Marine. She fears coming war, and worries for her loved ones and all soldiers families.

Stephanie Thornton is being treated by Doctors at the V.A. hospital in Dublin. Her ex-husband Edward McKeller is retired and lives in Jacksonville.

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