I feel very strongly about supporting our military. I have tried about a dozen times to join any one of the branches of our Armed Services and I have been turned down about a dozen times because I only have one kidney. My life as a Special Forces operator/pararescueman/flight surgeon/fighter pilot was not to be. Many in my family have served and my brother is in Air Force ROTC. I have many friends who I grew up with who are currently serving in uniform.
I learned long ago that joining the military was not the only was to serve our country. There are many ways to serve- I’ll get to that in a bit. Many of us are disconnected from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as many of the other places we have men and women standing guard so that we may face and confront our enemy on our terms and not theirs. I hope to close this disconnect just a little bit with this post.
I have worked a good number of years in the humanitarian world, and I have seen, first-hand, what war can do to individuals, families, and towns in places you hear about on the nightly news. War is messy: it always will be. It is our responsibility to elect leaders who will use our military might only when it is absolutely necessary, and we must also hold them accountable every step of they way- that’s why God invented the telephone, internet, democracy, and pen and paper– oh, and legs.
Now- we agree that we are at war, and we will be for the foreseeable future. There are a lot of people out there that disagree with American ideals, and many that disagree with our presence in their country, right or wrong. I am not trying to argue one way or another on that today.
I do believe that we send many of our young men and women into harm’s way and leave them behind once they do their duty. Remember how I said I would come back to how we can help serve our country? We can serve by serving them. Advances in battlefield medicine today keep more of our wounded alive when they previously would have died within minute, hours, or days. Roadside bombs (Improvised Explosive Devices and Explosively Formed Penetrators) rip through just about everything, and they are everywhere. Here’s a video of what one looks like exploding…
Here is a picture of what a HUMVEE looks like after it is hit by an IED
Here’s a picture of what one of our service members looks like after getting hit by an IED
Here is another picture [Warning, very graphic] http://jameswagner.com/images/Lucian_Read_american-soldier-ramadi-wounded-by-ied-iraq-2006.jpg
And a few more
Now here’s the thing. Having talked to many of these wounded warriors, most don’t want you to feel bad for them. They want you to understand what they have gone through. Many would go back and serve with their units in a heartbeat. They all want to live a normal life. Normal… At this point, what is normal for them?
Normal, today, oftentimes, is being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. They battle depression, can’t sleep, get arrested for starting fights that they have no knowledge as to why they started them, they get divorced, lose their job, can’t remember their child’s name or day of the week. Many take upwards or more than 20 different pills. Most of these pills are prescribed off-label, meaning that they are being taken to treat side effects that other pills are causing. Many of these pills have “Suicide Warning” labels. “Normal” is seeing a psychologist a few times a week who tells you that you need to “learn to overcome your brain injury and fight through it.” They are taught how to balance better and remember things more easily. We work to reprogram their brains. That’s all well and good, but it is extremely hard to do when you brain is physically damaged and not functioning properly. In fact, life is hard when your brain is messed up.
It is estimated that 1/3 of all of our veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from TBI/PTSD: that’s 600,000 people.
If you really want to hear a story of how much a hidden injury can hurt, look no further than this story NPR: Suicide By Cop
Here’s the thing; I firmly believe that we must do everything in our power to make sure our wounded veterans get every last bit of modern medicine that they deserve. The honest fact is that our men and women are not getting all the treatment they deserve. This is why I decided to do my part. I joined forces with the National Brain Injury Rescue and Rehabilitation (NBIRR) Project. We are trying a revolutionary new treatment that we hope may heal the brain by using hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). HBOT is used all over the world for burns, the “bends” from diving, diabetic foot wounds, and many other treatments. HBOT is not yet approved by the FDA for treating brain injury, but I have seen it work on the few patients we have treated thus far.The goal with the NBIRR Project is to cover the costs for wounded veterans to be treated with HBOT, collect the data, and hopefully demonstrate that the treatment works to heal the brain. From there, hopefully, the FDA will approve the used of HBOT to treat TBI, and from there, hopefully, military health insurance providers (TriCare and the VA) will reimburse people who choose to get treated. From there, we hope that this becomes available to the general public. The reason we need to pay for the treatments is because service members don’t make enough money to pay for the uninsured treatments (A hospital will normally charge $1,300/hour. We have gotten providers to charge $250/hour.) Oh, and also- I do not receive any of this money. You can ask Chase or Wachovia and they will prove it.
Here is some more information and resources on HBOT: http://nbirrfund.org/, http://www.hbot.com/, http://www.slideshare.net/lukembeckman/nbirr-briefing.
Dealing with brain injured veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, doing only what we are doing today- treating symptoms and not healing the brain- will cost over $1.35 trillion…that’s more money than Congress has actually allocated for combat operations in both wars combined.
This cause has become my passion, and if you know me- once I get started on something, there is no stopping me. Here’s my challenge to you- it’s simple.
Pledge that you will help to treat, and hopefully heal or improve the health of a wounded veteran. Imagine your son, daughter, friend, brother, sister, mom, dad, cousin, teammate, wife, or husband experienced a traumatic brain injury. Would you do everything in your power to make sure they got the best treatment possible? I would. I hope you would. I have three very close family friends who have suffered a severe brain in jury in the past few years. I will not stop until I know I have done everything in my power to ensure they have tried everything to get healthy. It is the least I can do. I would hope they did the same for me.
If you are willing to serve with me, to serve our veterans, join me here
Americans Helping Veterans: http://www.thepoint.com/campaigns/campaign-0-2358
Campaign to Treat TBI and PTSD: http://www.razoo.com/story/Nbirr
And remember, if you see a veteran and don’t know what to say…it’s very easy to just go up, shake their hand, or hold their shoulder, look them in the eye, and say “Thanks for your service.”
Thank you for your service.