Journalism in the Public Interest

Aftershock: The Blast That Shook Psycho Platoon

Five soldiers injured in the same 2009 bomb blast are a case study in a new epidemic among America’s troops, who are grappling with a combination of concussion and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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The New Epidemic

Staff Sgt. Derrick Junge, right, was on his second tour in Iraq when he sustained a traumatic brain injury from the Jan. 16, 2009 rocket attack. (1st Lt. Mark Peek )War has always fueled innovation, helpful and horrible. Better body armor and battlefield medicine have helped soldiers survive injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan that would have proven fatal in previous conflicts. But the advances that have saved soldiers' bodies cannot protect their minds from insurgents' primary weapon, the roadside bomb. Blast waves penetrate through Humvee doors, bulletproof vests and Kevlar helmets, rattling soldiers' brains and altering cells and circuitry. Most recover quickly, but some suffer lasting damage to their cognitive abilities. At the same time, the terrifying experience of surviving such blasts haunts them, seeping out in violent nightmares and emotional outbursts.

Given the number of troops deployed, tens of thousands of soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen may be suffering from this pernicious combination of PTSD and lasting problems from mild traumatic brain injury. They become, quite literally, different men and women than they used to be, a generation of warriors whose fight has shifted from external combat zones to invisible internal battlefields.

The issue has ignited debate in scientific and military circles, where much of the basic science remains in dispute. Are the two conditions related? If so, how? Does having a mild traumatic brain injury increase the chance of developing post-traumatic stress disorder? Or does surviving a terrifying event somehow make it more difficult for the brain to recover from a concussion? Doctors also struggle to tell the two conditions apart. PTSD and traumatic brain injury can produce similar symptoms, such as problems with memory and concentration. Yet both conditions escape detection by medical imaging devices, hindering diagnosis. Other conditions further complicate the picture. Besides PTSD and cognitive problems stemming from brain injury, soldiers also face chronic pain, missing limbs, vision, hearing and other physical problems. "It's very complicated," said Jennifer Vasterling, who has studied the issue and treated soldiers as chief of psychology at the Boston Veteran's Administration Hospital. "There are no simple scenarios."

Until recently, concussions were not even seen as particularly serious. Boxers boasted of returning to the ring after being knocked out. Soldiers in combat shook off feeling dazed and unfocused. Symptoms of concussions can include headaches, dizziness, difficulty speaking, memory troubles and sometimes balance and visions problems. Most people recover within four to six weeks. But for some, the symptoms can persist for months or even years. Civilian studies have found that between 5 percent and 15 percent of concussion victims endure long-term problems -- a condition formally known as post-concussion syndrome. Recent studies of athletes in the NFL and other sports have shown that repeated concussions can result in chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition associated with dementia and other Alzheimer's-like disorders.

Some researchers believe that soldiers' concussions may pose an even more complex medical challenge. Soldiers sustain their injuries in settings dramatically different from those encountered by athletes or car accident victims. Civilian concussions are typically caused by a physical blow to the head. But nobody is sure exactly how the brain is damaged in a blast concussion. Do blast waves rupture miniature blood vessels inside the brain? Does the force sever connections between neurons? Does it damage individual brain cells? Or does it simply slam the helmet into the head hard enough to injure the brain?

After the blast, soldiers face a different environment than typical concussion victims. No fans applaud as they rise from the field. Medics often can't rush them to the safety of a hospital right away. Instead, they remain on a hostile battlefield, fighting for their lives, the violence and rush of combat filling their brain with abnormal levels of chemicals such as adrenaline. Those left dazed, but not unconscious, experience a fear so fierce that it may simultaneously trigger post-traumatic stress. Paradoxically, patients who suffer severe traumatic brain injuries are less likely to develop PTSD -- perhaps because, knocked unconscious, they do not actually experience the horror unfolding around them.

"The scientific literature does not capture or mention the kind of patient that we are seeing," said Maria Mouritidas, psychology chair at Baltimore's College of Notre Dame, who worked with soldiers returning from the battlefield. "You can't compare this to a football game or a car injury. In a football game, if you go down, the game stops. On the battlefield, the game doesn't stop. Your survival depends on it."

For decades, the military has struggled to sort out the mysteries of concussions. In response to soldiers suffering head injuries during the Gulf War, the Pentagon and the Veterans Affairs joined forces to create what is today called the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, a network of research and treatment clinics. But the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq dramatically expanded the need. Military doctors began noticing a wave of troops suffering brain injuries in blasts. In August 2006, the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, responsible for monitoring health trends among troops, noted the growing number of head injuries. In a memo first disclosed by USA Today, the board warned senior Pentagon health officials that the military's medical system "lacks a system-wide approach for proper identification, management, and surveillance for individuals who sustain a TBI, in particular mild TBI/concussion."

However, it wasn't until the Walter Reed Hospital scandal of 2007 that the military dramatically increased attention to the so-called "invisible" wounds of war. The Washington Post revealed that officials at the hospital, the crown jewel of the military medical system, housed soldiers with brain damage in moldy hospital rooms, often ignoring their needs. The scandal caused an uproar in Congress and across the nation. Lawmakers passed legislation devoting more than $300 million in new research funds to brain injuries and PTSD. They ordered the military to conduct cognitive screenings of soldiers before and after deployment. President Bush created a commission headed by retired Sen. Bob Dole and former Health Secretary Donna Shalala to suggest recommendations to improve care for soldiers with PTSD and brain injury. In 2008, the Rand Corporation produced a groundbreaking report estimating that 19 percent of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan had suffered a probable traumatic brain injury, while another 18 percent reported symptoms of PTSD or depression. About 5 percent reported a combination.

Yet, despite the pressure and the growing numbers, the Pentagon's response was uneven, at best. ProPublica and NPR reported last year that the military continues to have problems diagnosing and treating brain-injured soldiers. The military's standard screens failed to catch as many as 40 percent of concussions, according to a study published earlier this month. Injuries weren't always noted in soldiers' medical files because of poor recordkeeping. In some cases, soldiers resisted admitting that they had sustained head traumas because of a desire to remain on the battlefield with comrades. In the command echelons, some high-ranking military officers dismissed the effects of mild traumatic brain injuries.

Col. Heidi Terrio, an Army doctor who has worked extensively with soldiers returning from the combat field, conducted a study published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation that reported that 7.5 percent of combat soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan showed three or more symptoms associated with post-concussion syndrome, with another 20 percent reporting one symptom. Terrio said her study showed that it was important to pay attention to soldiers with concussions. "Mild traumatic injury does not mean it's a mild problem," she said. "Mild doesn't necessarily mean mild consequences. One concussion may cause you to have lifelong problems. Most of the time it doesn't but it can."

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this is DU is NOT “bedeviling”...they KNOW what it is..there is no cure -

so angry at our government for allowing this..

Tremendous journey and story - I hope and pray all involved find peace and purpose.

Mike McLaughlin

March 22, 2011, 2:20 p.m.

in 1988 our oldest son was hit by a car while he was riding a bicycle in training for a triathlon. He had a TBI and lots of other injuries. He developed PTSD while in recovery for his physical injuries. He received emergency and follow-up care at MCV, Medical College of Virginia.

His care was prompt, and excellent. He is now a productive member of society, working as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. Now he participates in Ultra-Triathlons.

In 1988 MCV had federal funding to help export their system to other hospitals.The methods of care that MCV used for our son should have been available for our service members for YEARS.

Gen. Chiarelli, with due respect, you are in deep denial. Medcom, DVBIC and DCoE have screwed the pooch. While Tomei figures look in line, we new about this years ago. Where are the senior medical officers responsible for the botched policies? Why is no one being fired? Why are the lack of scientific results not being investigated? Why has it taken so long cost so much and produced so little?

It is time to dig into this. 

We will be paying for this for the next 40 years.

Mr McLaughlin,
With all due respect, the PTSD suffered in wars is far more severe and different from one that’s suffered in RTA (road traffic accidents). Every case is different and whilst your son was able to respond well to therapy, other’s are not so lucky.

Barry Schmittou

March 22, 2011, 2:38 p.m.

Insurance companies are endangering numerous Psychological claimantsn the U.S. !!

In the case of Zanny verses MetLife, U.S. District Judge Richard Enslen wrote :

“Metlife and its henchmen should appreciate that such conduct may itself precipitate the suicide death of a person who has placed implicit trust in their organization. This record is an open indictment of MetLife’s practices and treatment of the mentally-ill and long-term disability benefits.

In my personal case my Psycologist wrote that MetLife caused my PTSD. Here are exact quotes from her report :

“It is my impression that three medical doctors paid by Metlife appeared to have ignored medical evidence. For example, Metlife’s paid consultant, Dr. Yanik, “evaluated” Mr. Schmittou without ever having seen him or his medical record from 2004 through 2008.

In fact, from the time he filed the claims in 2002 until the Court ordered a review in 2008, Metlife ignored both his claims for long-term disability based on vision impairments and on psychological impairments. In treatment, I have observed that the impact of such actions by Metlife has resulted in exacerbation of Mr. Schmititou’s psychological symptoms and periods of significant destabilization.

While being diagnosed with cancer was itself traumatizing, the subsequent nine-year struggle with Metlife has proved even more devastating to Mr. Schmittou. His COBRA insurance expired. He had no money for food, housing, insurance, medical treatment, or medication for four years until he received Social Security Disability benefits. His credit has been ruined. He has had to move in with his parents. He has developed desperate fears about homelessness. Understandably, his mental health deteriorated, traumatized by this threat to his life, his well-being, his sense of wholeness.

Now, in addition to his impaired vision, he has intense psychological distress, impaired concentration, impaired frustration tolerance, fitful sleep, irritability, and hypervigilance, all hallmarks of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a result, he is at greater risk for impulsive acts against himself or others.

At various times, Mr. Schmittou has informed Metlife how desperate he has become. He has begged Metlife to stop the delays and obfuscations, because they added to his stress and depression, even to the point he often wished he were dead. Currently, he is so demoralized he is not seeking treatment for suspicious skin lesions or disturbing GI symptoms.

In light of the violations Metlife has committed against Mr. Schmittou and Metlife’s awareness of the additional harm caused him, Metlife’s actions seem irresponsible, inhumane, dangerous, and reckless.”

(end of quotes)

To see many more case quotes including quotes from numerous U.S. Judges’ who wrote that doctors’ paid by Metlife have ignored brain lesions, Multiple Sclerosis, and a foot a new mother broke in five places, please go to the following website where you will also see how the DOL and DOJ refuse to enforce numerous laws :

To see how identical crimes are being committed by multiple insurance companies in five different types of insurance including injured war zone contractors and injured American workers please go to :

(Bullet point one of that website is in reference to the first link listed above)

I pray someone will help soon because thousands of lives are being destroyed every year !!

Gen. Chiarelli is confusing activity with achievement.

Mike McLaughlin

March 22, 2011, 4:18 p.m.

Dr, Chaudhry states: “. . . the PTSD suffered in wars is far more severe and different from one that’s suffered in RTA (road traffic accidents). Every case is different and whilst your son was able to respond well to therapy, other’s are not so lucky.”

I agree with you Dr. I fully recognize that “battle PTSD” is significantly different, usually (but not necessarily) worse than getting run down by a Chrysler on a rural road.

My point is: Why hasn’t the DOD adopted, or at least studied, MCV’s program of 1988? It has only been known for a mere 20 years!

Barry Schmittou

March 22, 2011, 4:27 p.m.

It is very embarrassing but I am trying to share my PTSD hoping it will help others.

Every human has a breaking point !!

My PTSD was caused by three MetLife doctor’s ignoring my eye cancer.

I can’t begin to imagine how bad the soldiers in war zones PTSD makes them feel !!!!

Here are quotes from an urgent letter that my Psychologist wrote to Assistant Secretary of Labor Ms. Borzi and Metlife Senior Management on December 2nd, 2010.

“His intense emotional misery is a daily struggle. His thoughts and emotions are so troubled he describes feeling “like my brain is on fire”. I think he struggles to express the fullness of his distress. The fact that he has not sought recommended medical treatment for a variety of physical symptoms because he “doesn’t see the use” is evidence of the severity of his depression, in my opinion.”

“I have deep concern for my patient if he has to repeat the appeals process. He needs for this claim ordeal to be over.”

After receiving this, the DOL Directors’ instructed me to be sure to file the appeal.

Obviously the U.S. Government does not understand how serious PTSD is !!

The DOL is also responsible for regulating the benefits for injured war zone contractors’ and they are doing a horrendous job as evidenced in the reporting of T. Christian Miller.

I respectfully request that ProPublica will become more demanding with the U.S. Government and seek immediate resolution and recognition of the dangers of PTSD and all the other problems I have posted on the websites I listed above !!

I feel very fortunate that instead of harming the insurance company or others I have been able to internalize the anger from having no money for medical while three insurance company doctors’ ignored my eye cancer problems and other visual problems.

The internalization has destroyed my life as evidenced by how much I post on your web comments, and many times after I post I fall or nearly fall due to the extreme strain that typing causes.

God please be with everyone who has PTSD or any medical problems !! Your experience with the insurance companies and the U.S. government may be even worse than the disease you have !!

Steve Pittsley

March 22, 2011, 8:31 p.m.

This is nothing new; The same injuries have occurred , and been suffered from, since Caemen fought with clubs. Tens of thousands of soldiers suffered from it , in WW ll ( Just ask Gen. Patton )  However , there were always SO MANY calsaulties, the ” No Blood , No Foul ” rule went into place.
  Today , with the amounts of causaulties so Very Low , theses injuries are now evident. Its not likw this is anything bew, that needs New attention ..  War , is hell, we all know that ... And Injuries DO happen , there is no way to avoid them . Now, it’s time to step - up, and help these guys that gave so much for their country . The cost /  Geez, if we had WW ll now, we couldn’t afford the bandages, never mind anything else.
    Cost should never be a factor, when you are talking lives…

They are all heroes, and I hope they all get the help they need.  I agree that this will haunt us for decades.  I hope Brock and his family know how much we appreciate him, and hope he hangs in there and gets better.  I will try to make sure soldiers returning to my state of Maine, and their families are getting the help and support they need. Thanks for an excellent, eye-opening article.

Such a sad story that these young men, and women, are going through.  I know that a concussion from an incident as this is not as serious as a injury from sports, but it seems our highschool has better tools to monitor our athletes to see if they received a concussion and how severe.  If a high school can have programs like this, why is it that our military doesn’t?

I pray always for the health and well being of all our men and women serving the military.  And for all the innocient country men that will have these same problems.

Amazing piece as always. Propublica reports items you don’t normally get from mainstream media (except NPR, possibly).

“...It is an epidemic so new that doctors aren’t even sure what to call it, let alone how best to diagnose and treat it…”

Is that a joke?  ‘Cuz I’m not laughing.  It’s called WAR!  This country is obsessed with WAR.  Not real war which is ugly, crazy and kills/injures people, but good ol’ American war with great camera angles of shiny jets carrying phallic-looking missiles, and late night shots of cruise missiles rising from the deck of a Navy ship.  The camera feeds from “embedded” journalists showing cheering natives are replayed so often as to be permanently writ upon our drug addled brains. This edited, airbrushed version of war is more a recruitment film than reality.  So, is it any wonder that the Pentagon and the media in general, don’t want to spoil the fun by addressing very real outcomes of this obsession with WAR?

I was the weapons officer ( trigger woman ) on an ah-64a Apache Longbow, in the 100 hours war called Desert Storm. My crew and i blew up more Iraqi armor , trucks, and Soldiers than anyone could possibly imagine.  Route 80, between Kuwait and Iraq was a wasteland of machines and dead bodies. The things I saw , the things I did , will be with me forever . After two days, we just stopped vehicles, ordered everyone out, and blew iy up; we decided, as a crew, that we had killed enough . Other crews, well, some were animals. they killed everything; men , women , kids, goats. camels.. anything that moved .
    It was not war , but Hell, for them.. more like a Video game for us…
      The things we do , in war ... God have mercy .........

Julia Hugo Rachel

March 23, 2011, 7:55 p.m.

The Travesty here is that you have 2 groups in-fighting. PTSD vs. TBI. This in-fighting needs to STOP NOW. Some soldiers have TBI, some Soldiers have PTSD and Some soldiers have Both.

Then there is more…..some soldiers have GWI and it gets misdiagnosed as PTSD. Up to 50% of GWI cases are viral in etiology and can be treated. There are also environmental toxins involved.

My point is:
A) Get the high resolution Brain Scans
B) PTSD Testing
C) Viral and Pathogen Testing

This is NOT Rocket Science….and these ARE Soldiers. STEP IT UP USA!

VLG on Valcyte Blog

Brother I understand what you been thru be at peace now god can help you.

My brother was hit severely, by a sniper round.  Blood-flow to the brain may have stopped several times, when efforts to resuscitate had to be employed.  He’s ODed on illegal drugs twice and is now in a program through the Houston VA.  What should we be looking for, in an effective program.  He’s intelligent and devious…  He knows what to say, to convince the Dr.s…

I am always surprised, in discussions about US soldiers and war, that so little is mentioned about the moral, ethical and karmic consequences of volunteering to serve in the military-industrial complex which is all about invading and occupying small countries in order to secure their natural resources for exploitation by multinational corporations.
Let’s face it, anybody who is old enough to volunteer for US military- an institution dedicated to US hegemony- is old enough to find out that these wars are illegal, immoral and horrible, and that joining the military will involve doing bad things to people in faraway lands.
There are consequences for participating in wars that are NOT about “protecting our freedoms” or “protecting us from terrorists.”
I would suggest that all soldiers renounce war and work for peace. This will help their souls, their PTSD, etc.
But if you pick up a gun to serve the Empire, you are very likely to damage yourself, and a lot of innocent foreign civilians, in the process.

Narelle Dimond

March 24, 2011, 4:10 a.m.

Having worked voluntary with PTSD sufferers from the Vietnam war. I decided to make PTSD my major in post graduate studies. I noticed that there were many variences of behaviour between 2nd World War Vetrans and Vietnam Veterans. I also noticed the differences between PTSD sufferers that were Police Officers, Doctors, Fire workers, etc. My comments are that you cannot put all PTSD sufferers into any category nor can you treat them the same.

The only common answer that comes from any PTSD is that they feel lost and seperate from humanity, almost alien. The middle east wars are producing a further variation. I am very concerned that all soldiers get warfare training at various levels but get no training on how to fit back into society when they return. The drugs given are no answer to their nightmares, nor telling them they are lucky to come back alive and to get on with their lives.Most either become drug (both medical & self inflicted)dependent or alcaholics.Most find it impossible to remain in a relationship and drift in and out of employment.

PTSD is a psychological issue that needs more investment for study, millions go to aids research, cancer, research but very little is given to this research yet the world wars and trauma’s are producing more sufferers daily, far mor than the former medical conditions. If these brave people give part of their lives to fight for justice then all justice should be given to their reabilitation when they return from these gastly wars. All countries in the world need to support and learn to understand this horrible health problem because it affects not only soldiers but all humanity at some point.

  It’s not about “invading” unless some leader decides that’s the way to go.  In response, without the military, we would have no defenses.  Add that our (USA) current objectives are to protect innocent lives (most of our bases outside the US are a ‘show of power.’ to reduce the likelihood of war) and in response to the September 11th attacks by a militant Islamic regime/extremist-religious group (jihad).  In Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, we are defending the weak, aiding the injured and suppressed and fighting evil.  Of note, in ALL of the Middle East, we are part of U.N. forces.  We are not alone, in the goals of peace and prosperity for the world.  Without freedom of speech, freedom of dissent, you would not even be allowed to speak in this manner.
  Jihadists believe that, not only are THEY the chosen master race, but that anyone of lesser purity is to be put to death.  You would have already been put to death, by your father, for getting caught THINKING of anything less than total annihilation of the rest of the human race.

Dan Fredrickson

March 24, 2011, 11:05 a.m.

I have a clinic that successfully treats and cures TBI and PTSD with hyperbaric oxygen. Congress just cut a bill to treat our vets with hyperbaric oxygen in the last Military Appro. Bill at the last minute because of pressure by drug companies. We have treated several Vets for free and have had outstanding results. We have been able to get these great men and women off there drugs and back to a healthy life. look under the veterans section to see what’s been done so far. I’m a retired Navy diver and have been curing people with brain problems for over 30 years. When is the medical society going to catch and look to a non-drug therapy that cures the problem instead of masking the symptoms.

@JK Frusha & Steve: I am surprised that people visiting Pro Publica would be so enamored of the official cover story regarding why the US invades and occupies small countries. “In Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, we are defending the weak, aiding the injured and suppressed and fighting evil.” This is so Orwellian and bizarre, all I can ask is, have you seen what the US military has done to the land, infrastructure and innocent civilians in the countries it invades? Have you forgotten that Bush lied about the reasons to go to war, used torture, etc.? Have you forgotten General Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial complex which today is the controlling force in our country? I don’t like fundamentalists of any type, be they Muslim, Christian or American is the Savior types. The USA is not spreading peace. Starting with Vietnam, continuing with Ronnie’s covert, illegal wars in Central America, and now to our hegemonistic invasions in the Middle East, it is all about money and power. These wars do not protect my freedom, or protect me from Jihadists. These wars make the world a more brutal place. Those are the facts, my friends.

  You’re more than welcome to move.  The Russians might have a use for you.  Convert to Islam and you’d learn that converts don’t get into their heaven and should, like all infidels and unclean, less than pure-blooded should be killed.
  I believe you’ve forgotten the abandoned SCUD missiles that showed residual Ricin, Mustard Gas, Nerve Gas and other poisons, which, by definition, are weapons of mass destruction.  Disarmed and abandoned, but intent and equipment was in place.
  You haven’t seen the Terabytes of video that shows the cheering populace, because it doesn’t make for ‘good TV.’  Death and destruction is the order of the day, because it captivates the masses.
  My brother nearly died because he was over there.  He wishes he was able to go back.  Not because he likes killing, but because it IS the good fight.
  As for religious fanatics, they are everywhere.  Look around you.  Westboro is probably ready to recruit you.  Extreme fundamentalists came and attacked us, the US, first, then they started in on the rest of the world.  We took the fight back to them.  The countries that were also attacked, have joined us.  The ones that didn’t are beginning to submit to Islam, the next Communism.
  I had a friend that immigrated to the US after the war began.  His on stupidity got him killed in a motorcycle accident.  Most of what little he earned, went to his family, in Iraq, in a blown apart city.  They live and work in a city that was almost blown off the map…  THEY are some that continue to cheer the troops on, over there.

So Karl , we’ll just totally forget about the 117, 000 bodies found ( So far ) Buried in the desert by Saddam . You are right , they do not deserve justice; just forget them, and all the rest of the people who WOULD have died by the hand of the worst killer since Hitler .  Just as we should forget about his Jewish Victims.
  We should NEVER have gone to war agaimst Hitler either ; Scre w Europe, why should Ford get rich selling Tanks and Planes, and Colt make a fortune selling the military pistils.
  You know, iIm so sick of hearing about how President Bush lied, yak , yak , yak ..Roosevelt lied too; he had to, to get America to move to do the right thing ; America, unfortunately, has always had such an Isolationist attitude . Even today , we allow people to be butchered by these animalistic dictators, sitting on our hands, while the same Bleeding Hearts pretend to shake their fists in indignation .
They are the people that walk by a man , face down in blood on the subway , and do nothing.  They give a couple bucks towrads shelter , and pat each other on the back at their cocktail parties
    All safe and secure, here in America .. thousands of miles away from the real world. , they have No Idea what is happening.. At least , i HOPE they do not; for if they did, and still choose to do nothing, then All is lost .  They will wake - up , perhaps, when they are being led to the ” Showers ” ... God Bless America, God Bless the President, and God Bless those who are in need of our help, that will Nevr receive it .
    Go see the people of Iraq; ask them, are you glad Saddam is gone.. see if they do not kiss your feet
    If Blood suckers are going to make money , selling weapons for war , let them be Americans , rather than Chinese.. Let america profit , Not the Communist . Remember them .the Communist that would bury America ? they are still there .. They are still willing to bury us ; China is NOT our friend. I donot know how we will fight their 10 million plus troops, but we will have to , sooner than most people realize.
  But, I digress..  There is no way to change you, or anyone with such a convoluted view of the world ‘s mind; I know that .  But, I do know that I am right ; history proves it. Having been a part of the Greatest fighting force the World has ever known, I sleep well at night , with the knowledge they will keep us safe. You go to bed, sleeping well at night, because you send $18 every month to Sonis, the poor kid in Columbia .. .. Yeah , it IS a shame US troops couldn’t have been there , to save her parents ........... Nuff Said .

The ending statement by Savelkoul; “They teach us how to get over there,” he said. “Now they need to teach us how to get back.” is the key to dealing with PTSD. “Though we can never forget.”  We were taken from a jungle “in my war” and 24hrs later we were walking the streets at home and expected to just blend in. We consulted our chain of command and they wanted to punish us for saying anything demanding that we just fall in like everyone else.  We try but never really make it home.

If the military would set up debriefing centers where all returning combat troops were required to go after their tour for 60 to 90 days. A place where spit, polish and vigorous war training exercises are set aside for a while,  they might become reoriented troops able to cope with the abrupt change in life style, conditions, and location.  I actually brought this idea to the attention of the Army in 1970 but ultimately was punished, busted and thrown out of the Army as a result. I hope the best for this brother and understand his fight. I know he can peace through the peace maker Jesus Christ.

Edward Robinson

March 25, 2011, 8:08 p.m.

Thank you Dan Fredrickson for your continue service to military men & women and veterans with TBI & PTSD using Hyperbaric O2 Treament. As a former Navy Corpsman and diver I have studies how this treatment has worked very well and there is a better physical & mental recovery.
It is not just sad but sickening that with the recent cuts to the Military Appro.Bill that only a few veterans will have access to this “holistic” type of treatment that really works…

HBOT is unproven. Harch has been promoting this treatment for years without proving it works. So much of DCoE, DVBIC and AMEDD research is pure crap because of attraction to wonder and silly therapies. Billions have been pissed away and troops can’t even be properly screened because a cabal of self interested officers and SESs used a product called ANAM that has never worked and the Navy has proven recently does not work.

HBOT is being tested using ANAM as an end-point. It will show nothing of value.

Hey Steve,

Just a couple of questions….
1. In your little story about the things you did in Desert Storm…Did you mean highway 8?  Because Highway 80 was bombed by the navy….Highway 8 was the road that was attacked by the US Army AH-64’s…..

2.  How did you fly a Longbow in DS when that upgrade had not even been started yet? (Longbow is the name of the FCR located in the radome over the main rotor, this was not available in DS. As the FIRST production model was delivered in 1997)

Not trying to call you a liar…..If you served….Thank you….if your lying….Get some professional help….or research your lies a little better.

We were , indeed , assigned to patrol highway 80 , The Navy bombed the road ? ...I was wondering where those holes came from . . We were sent in as mop up , sweetie ... There were PLENTY of targets of opportunity, I assure you .
  and, sorry , but 87 Longbows were RUSHED into service, before they were even fully tested ...  The first in October , 1990 . You may not be able to ” Google ” that , Brainiac, as it was , indeed not let out, in case if ” Problems ’  with the systems .  sorry .. now run along, little boy , and get out your GI joes ...
      I DO know I was called back from Germany , spring , 1989 and sent to school to learn the new systems .

Hey George Bush…Brock and other young men/women from our Armed Forces want to thank you for sending them over there to Iraq for no reason at all.  I will be happy when Bush, Cheney & Rumsfeld are all hanging from the nearest street light.

WWII victims were shamed into hiding their nightmares.  Vietnam vets got rocks thrown at the bus as we were processed out in California. Now Brock says, “they teach us how to get there, but not how to get back.” I don’t believe it can be done so let’s stop teaching the first part.  Like a moth to flame, I am drawn to this drama and equally angry to read articles or comments from those without a clue.  It doesn’t help.  Forget the kids…don’t start them on this death spiral.  That is unless of course everyone plans to participate so we can all understand what all of us have been through.  Promoting your agenda with a surrogate warrior is disgusting…do it yourself or shut up.

Coleman , I’m sure that no one with an arrest record as extensive as yours was ever allowed to serve a day in the Armed Forces .. ( Other than the Dirty Dozen , lol )  and James brown already has that role .

For you to even think you could speak for the Service men and women in our Armed Services is a Joke ..  Now get back on the corner and sell that Rock ...

AF veteran here. The politics of war is an enduring argument. I’m disheartened to see the derisive comments here. Until we can see that we’re all in this together, for better or for worse, nothing can or will change for ourselves or our combat wounded. Please read War and the Soul. Amazing book.
My greatest praise today goes to Christopher who used her humanity, perhaps against her training, to defuse a deadly situation. This would surely have had a different outcome in an urban setting. What saved Savelkoul’s life that day was his community.

Major Doug Rokke, Ph.D.

March 27, 2011, 1:59 p.m.

A hospital operator at Danville Illinois VA Medical center refused to connect me to help during my own personal ptsd crisis on friday night March 25, 2011 after argung and argiung some more while i am in personal ptsd crisis she connected me to the aod who i had to argue with some more until she finally connected me to an on call duty chaplian.  chaplain dixon was helping me until operator came back on to tell us to terminate the call which then happened. so i was left on my own abandoned by order of an operator who interferred with my ongoing needed crisis care for ptsd by those tasked to help us. it is entirely broken,.  there is no accountabilty. how many more vets abnd family members have been abandoned in time need. i know i hear the same story day after day.

The military has beeen slow to the call of addressing TBI and PTSD.  TBI is concidered a concussion in the eyes of leaders and soldiers you are accostum to expect themselves, their buddies and charges to tough it out, move out or rest to fight another day.  As long as the mission is accomplish.  PTSD is a mental tag that no one wants to have or condition to have and try to cope.  The civilian providers and community provides limited support or understanding at 5 million TBI’s, and still reluctant to address.  Add the 200,000 military veterans to the numbers with 5% having both PTSD and TBI .  SOMEONE NEEDS TO TAKE NOTICE.  I can understand why our troops denie a TBI,  they worry about the lable of PTSD, thus the mental tag,  being found nonf-fit for active duty released at 10% disabled and not cared for by the VA. The civilian approach is not any better.  Limited programs, funding and insurance deniels.  TBI mild or severe is long lasting pyschological and life changing effects, therapy and rehab limited and requires self care or supportive family.  America support and become aware.

Best of wishes for positive outcome for the members of this platoon.  I take offense to the label of which they are given and what it implies.

However, being both closely related to this subject and recovering victim of a nomcombatant TBI my feelings are not the issue. 

Being a healthcare provider during the initial identification, treatment and management of both TBI/PTSD prior to the current combine efforts of 2003-2007 I applaud the message being attempted.  I am happy to see this soldier getting the assistance due him.  It was not his fault for not being recognized in need of assistance. 

Being a retired vet I AM CERTAIN I too sustained many episodes of possible tbi’s that I dismissed as bumps on the head, or poor parachute landing.  Than an injury resulting in a severe TBI IN 2009, AS A CIVILIAN AND NONCOMBAT RELATED, chnged my life.

As was mention I have close ties to the subject matter of this article. One of the persons mention in this article, and I thank NPR for introducing this story and Propublica for noting Col. Terrio’s contribution and hard work.  Bringing to the forefront need of identification and care for TBI and PTSD.  She in my opinion was the initial organizer of the TBI effort along with her VA counter part, DVBIC Team, and her crew which I eventually became part of in 2006, prior to my own injury. Like an IED, sudden, unexpected and life alterating. 

Prior to injury I interviewed many of the returning troops here at our home base, which was not at FT Riley, A place I was familiar with and a former unit of assignment.  I would interview some from 1ST Inf Div on inprocessing to our post.  Thru them and others of our post,  I would learned what was to be experiencing during my own recovery, rehab and healing as described in this article.  After reading this story in its entirety, I would like to share my experiences.  With the intent and hope will be helpful in some manner.
1.  I sustained 3 severe TBIs at the same injury,  had post and pre injury amnesia, coma for 2 weeks.
2.  First problemn experienced was forgetfulness; while speaking with sister in law I had forgotten her first name.  I knew her and her husband, her parents, her kids.  I’ve known her since 1975.  When my wife and I married, but could not recall her first name.  Now I repeat it often so as not to embaress my self again.
3.  Forgetful of words, drop words, difficult recalling especially names or single events that I know I SHOULD RECALL.
4.  Yet have a FANASTIC long term memory RECALL of the past, short term is cloudy. Common in TBI’s.  Yet no 2 TBIs are the same.
5.  After 2 yrs starting to feel different, out of place.  Told I am forgetful but dont experience at time of occurence.
6. Easily frustrated and angered.  Only to be agitated.  Which is new since I am basically non-confrontational for last 35 yrs.

These are no sweat.  What worries me the possibility:
1. Alzheimers 2. Dementia 3. The other day read about tbi being consider preceptor to possible ALS-  Lou Gherig’s disease.  4.  Not to mention the typical worries of Seizures or Suicidal ideation.  5. Standoff with authorities.  5.  PTSD.


I am the lucky one.  First i am alive.  I have 11 specialist being paid by the Work Comp ,  US Govt Dept of Labor at Medicare standard?  Than I have back up Tricare?????????  But the medical community is not convince those with TBI need the treatment that is recommended. 

Imagine what our soldiers go thru? 

I thought I was having signs of PTSD. 
My Physiatrist told me to have PTSD I had TO RECALL OR REMEMBER MY INJURY EVENT,  therefor I didn’t have PTSD. 

To be on the safeside when I seen my VA Provider for routine follow up.  He asked me point blank if I had seen a Psychiatrist.  Answer was no, he referred and he agrees meds for depression which I don’t RECOGNIZE and may recommend Cognitive Therapy which Tricare won’t pay for. 

Just recently , I feel like a different person than before my injury.  Wrapping up a great career and contributed meaningful care to our troops only needed 10 yrs until retirement under SSA if around.  Now disabled forced to call it quits,  but have desire to drive on.


I believe that the men and women who defend our country should have the absolute best services that we can offer.  These indidivuals give their own life so that I can type this response.  They leave family, friends and comfort to be exposed to some of the worst conditions ever and then when they come home they are treated like outcasts.  How is this okay?  I want every solider to know how much I appreciate everything you have sacraficed for my family and me.  You are in my heart the best of the best!

A LOT of these guys are just milking the system ; using it to cover the fact that they are lazy , and just DON’T want to work , or live in society . They get used to the Service, and then getbooted out, and they have to return to civilian life. They pretend injuries, to stay close to the VA , the soldiers that really made a difference.  Theywant to be counted as a Hero, not a zero ..
  So they go home, get drunk, beat their wife and kids, and blame it on PTSD . When, in fact, they would have done the same damn thing if they hadn’t been in the service.
    Slackers, hiding in the system .. And we have made the System soooo easy to exploit, they make a living off it, much like the Welfare slackers do ..
  Nuff Said .

  Did you conduct this research during your time in service or after you were honorably discharged?  Congratulations;  from you comments, it would likely take someone of officer status to complete such an indepth analysis.

Of course I received as an officer . I was given a Captain’s commission , just before I left . It was a nice parting gesture. Along with my Combat Ribbons, and Silver Star, just a few of the decorations I received for Honorable Service .... I came home, and Built a successful Landscape Design biz, and a Large commercial Green house. With four full - time employees, and several part - timers ( all but one are ex - Service, by the way )  It keeps me busy ... My guys are working out their demons, partially at MY expense, which I do not mind, and would never even consider a burden .  We ALL ” play in the dirt ” and bury our demons…..
    HUH ?  What ? ... oh, apology accepted ...
    Nuff Said ..

.........of course there’s those that ride the system and try to get every morsel owed them.  But I imply its not about them or their poor leadership.  Its about the suffering by the moms, dads, children, and wives who are at home trying to reason how come their love one is different now as compared to behavior prior to the deployment.  Why doesn’t his government not do what they said they would do?  Like fix them when they got broken and take care of them to repay the life long sacrifice made when injured?  Than there the non-military TBI, 5 MILLION,  ARE THEY RIDING THE SYSTEM?  To think or say these service men and women sacrificed their future and put themself in harms way only to get a free ride is obscene.  Nuf said!

Look, no one’s denying that the Vet’s need help; hell, I have days I need help as well.  I merely throw the System users out there to stir the pot.
    But, let’s face it ; war is hell, and its not just the Troops that suffer , as you say . But, it has always been that way , Hell, since troy was sacked, lol.  Probably Much earlier . Folks got by . they survived.  War was part of life, and death; it has always been . There are always casualties , and they either survuve, or not. All of this PTSD , etc. is NOT new ; nor is it something to be swept under the carpet . But , people have got to face the fact that some just will not be ” Healed ‘. I also get tired of these people griping about the Government forcing them into war, stupid wars, etc. etc. Since like August 1973, the military became all Voluntary .  You signed up , voluntary , KNOWING that there is a very real chance of fighting in a conflict Somewhere in the world. All these people that signed up to go to school ” Free ’  are finding out that itis , in fact Not Free.  Nothing was hidden from these people; they were all told, as I was, That there was a real chance of seeing Battle.
    Now, they want more than others. They deserve the VERY BEST in the way of treatments, but nothingmore than anyone who fought before them .  I know , as we become more ” Civilized ” we become softer , the average soldier becomes less and less likely to be willing to give his life for his country .  But, you go fight for a year ) some , just months or weeks ) and they think that the world owes them a living.
    Part of the Problem is these Doctors who are forever discovering ” New ” Ailments etc. Related to War . They set out to make a name for themselves, and they usually due. The proliferation of War injuries now far outanks the the weapons used ...
    I’m out of the game, and survived relatively intact ; I’ll never know the heartbreak of a lost linb, A tramatic head wound. If any of you guys in Iraq find a toe, its mine . You can keep it, i’m doing o.k. without it..
      Nuff said..

T. Miller’s Psycho Platoon story surely helped this reader develop some perspective on the TBI and PTSD on-going debate. So many previous articles were pointy fingers casting blame and creating doubt about the military having the will or inclination to find solutions. This article focused on some of the soldiers, on all levels, who are fighting hard to win the war against this evil, invasive, common enemy.  There are all kinds of heroes and Brock and his 4 buddies, who face this enemy head-on day in and day out;  General Chiarelli, who is trying to fight this enemy by empowering his troops to identify it before it does damage; and SmokeyBear-Hat Megan (I am women, hear me roar) who was the right woman in the right place at the right time to come up against this enemy all are heroes in my eyes.  From all the comments above, it looks as if Psycho Platoon is telling a needed story and creating a cause that ALL Americans can rally behind. 

Thank you, too, Daniel Zwerdling, for your accompanying story on NPR; it was a great collaboration.  The Dick Flick car chase thru the North Dakota Badlands in the middle of winter with Chick Flick Megan leading the charge complete with a happy ending is classic Youtube material.  I love it!

I am grateful that this young man will be getting the help he needs. It is sad that he had to go through all the changes in order to receive it. My son served in IOF and received the Purple Heart and I lost him 6 months after he returned home on Thanksgiving Day. Thank you for your sacrifice and may God be with you and guide you through al your troubled times.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Brain Wars

Brain Wars: How the Military Is Failing Its Wounded

The military has failed to diagnose brain injuries in thousands of soldiers returning from overseas.

The Story So Far

Traumatic brain injury is considered the “signature wound” of soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Official military statistics show that more than 115,000 soldiers have suffered mild traumatic brain injuries since the wars began. Shock waves from roadside bombs can ripple through soldiers’ brains, causing damage that sometimes leaves no visible scars but may cause lasting mental and physical harm.

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