There’s some stuff I’ve been tracking lately, developments with some of the research that goes into Traumatic Brain Injuries, or TBIs. Someone I know shot me an email with a pretty good link in it, I thought I would share it with you all.
OK, so they call TBI the “signature wound” of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, but this is actually a story as old as concussions. Old books sometimes describe odd behavior from people who sustained head injuries, and “All’s Quiet On The Western Front” has a scene where a soldier could get away with bad behavior because he had a documented head wound- apparently the German Army in WW1 recognized some of the symptoms of what we now know as a TBI.
Army medicine is still trying to distinguish between combat trauma cases and TBI symptoms, and it is difficult for providers to tell where one starts and the other stops. I know from personal experience that the two go hand in hand- also, those who have been “blown up” are also more likely to have had intense combat experiences.
But there’s a new wrinkle for the medical people. As stated in the above linked article, operators of heavy weapons can be at risk for TBIs as well.
I had a holy crap moment when I read about this. Not only have I been “blown up,” but I’ve fired a lot of blast-heavy weapons as well. A day at the range with stuff that goes boom will make you a little muddle headed or short-tempered, but I never thought anything about it. I don’t think anyone has up until now.
The more that is learned about TBI the worse it gets. Look at the controversy in American football- a sport seemingly designed to cause brain injuries. And now it looks as if even operating heavy weapons leaves a trace in the brains of the crew.
This is going to open a whole can of worms at Veteran’s Affairs.
Another thing I wonder is how many less-than-honorable discharges were caused by blast exposure combined with combat trauma (PTSD)? A guy (or girl) comes home, they are easily pissed off, drink too much or smoke some weed; next thing you know they are in serious disciplinary trouble with the pogues in the rear. How many combat veterans have been hosed by the military justice system as a direct result of their service?
I think back on incidents in my past and the only reason I didn’t end up hemmed up like others was due to good leadership and pure, hardcore luck.
But luck shouldn’t determine the type of discharge a combat veteran ultimately earns. The military needs to do a much better job of diagnosing those who are prone to TBIs and/or PTSD, and being aware of all factors during disciplinary procedures. Real combat experience should definitely be taken into consideration at courts-martial.
TBIs, wounds, trauma, bad experiences come with the territory. There is a price to be paid. As a society, though, we need to keep people from ending up under a bridge, dependent on drugs, or to send them home with suicidal tendencies.
After all, these people sacrificed their bodies and well-being for our society.
The least we can do is to reduce the payments.