"If you're a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom (O1F) or Operation Enduring Freedom(OEF), we welcome you home and sincerely thank you for the time you served. Words can't convey the deep appreciation that we and other Americans across the country have for your valor, commitment, and hard work. While in harm's way, you endured many hardships, from constant threats and unpredictable crises to extreme temperature, chaotic operations, absences from loved ones, and uncertainty about your return home. You have much of which you can be proud." Courage after Fire by Keith Armstrong, LCSW/Suzanne Best, Ph.D./Paula Domenici, Ph.D.

One of our soldiers visited my website and forum and said that he would like to be a guest presenter and tell one of his stories about being injured by an explosive device. This great soldier, like many others in our program, are now working to recover from this IED blast, PTSD, and other injuries.

These injuries, often accompanied with Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD)and Traumatic Brain Injury(TBI), are often very difficult to diagnose and treat, yet so many of our soldiers have enormous headaches and now have short term memory loss; sleepless nights; anger episodes; hypervigilence; anxiety and panic attacks; and, other sensory, physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual injuries.

I am not using this Warrior's name, even though he has given me authorization, as I wish to protect his privacy and confidentiality as a patient in the Warrior Transition Battalion. It is our hope and our interest in informing others about these 'invisible injuries' so that these great soldiers will be treated with the respect that they deserve and given every possible treatment with rehabilitation services to help them recover and carry on and carry out their lives as civilians in our society that is often described as indifferent and judgmental. Many of our soldiers will return fit-for-duty; however, those who are unable, must be supported when they return to civilian life.

This soldier is very intelligent, brave, resourceful and eager to get better so that he can go to college and join a profession of his choice. Let's get behind our Warriors and thank them for their service and for their courage. Welcome our soldiers home with the respect and dignity that they deserve.

Jerry Vest, LISW, Clinical Social Worker & Professor Emeritus

Dear Colleagues, Brothers, Care Workers, Family, Friends and others,

"I was deployed to IRAQ, the first time from Feb. 2004 until Feb. 2005. I was involved in several engagements. The methods of engagement ranged from: small arms fire; IED's; mortars and everything in between. Looking back now on my first tour there are at least a handful of times where I was suffering from mild concussion symptoms. Most of us, if not all of us, had something wrong with us, but we just kept driving on and pushing through it. Because of our small size we didn't have the luxury of extra men/women and down time like infantry platoons. I was in C co. 1-77AR, 3rd platoon out of Schweinfurt, Germany and my platoon was a tank platoon converted to one of those needed by the Army. We pulled every kind of mission you could think of. All the while being told we were soldiers first then our MOS specialties were considered later, if at all.

One of those missions was VIP escort and drop off, and it was one one of these missions that my life would be changed forever. It was late night sometime in Dec. 04 when we were tasked to pick up SGM T........ from LSA Anaconda and drop him off at FOB Paliwoda. I was the last truck in the column that night and it didn't have gypsy racks or anything just the standard shield and 240 machine gun that came with the truck. We were driving North up route Linda just past Yathreb when IED struck my vehicle--peppering the passenger's side rear of the truck with shrapnel and blowing out the tires. The percussion of the blast rendered me unconscious, and when I awoke in a dazed state, I remember a bright light and an intense pressure all over my body but all other events of that incident are fuzzy.

I have little to no recollection of the rest of my time in Iraq after that either with the exception of my friend being KIA. Had it not been for the help of my battle buddy JS, I wouldn't have been able to take care of myself. John was tasked with the job of making sure I ate and dressed properly and bathed. He was my only way to function, and without his help I would have been lost. From that time till now I still suffer from the effects of that blast, and even with the rehabilitation for TBI I continue to struggle.

One of the biggest obstacles I face, unlike some soldiers, is that my wounds aren't visible, and there is still so much misunderstanding about this type of injury. If a soldier loses an arm or leg you can see that clearly, but there is no way to go back in time and see my level of function before the blast and compare it to Now.

Traumatic Brain Injury is so strange, in fact, if you put four people in the exact same situation as I experienced, all four would be affected differently.

For me it was my mother who noticed the drastic changes in me first, but I didn't see them for myself until much later. Sometimes a man's pride stands in the way of his progress and all you can do is hope someone notices and helps you help yourself. I will never be at the same level I once was, but in time with hard work I will be better than I am today. Thank you for your time. I will be patiently awaiting the decision of the Medical Board."

A Wounded Soldier!

Author's Bio: 

I am a holistic health social worker employed with the Ft. Bliss, Wm Beaumont Army Medical Center, Restoration & Resilience Center. I am primary therapist for several Wounded Warriors, provide individual, group and family therapies while also coordinating our water polo, daily meditation and health education programs. I am completing my second year as a therapist with the Army's premier PTSD comprehensive treatment center for soldiers interested in returning fit-for-duty. Do visit our Ft. Bliss R & R Center's Website for details and further understanding.