It’s a story that’s been told again and again, but this rendition is particularly heart-breaking. It is the story of Major Ben Richards, a brilliant West Point graduate, who went to Iraq and came back a broken man.
Like many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, Richards’ wounds aren’t visible to the naked eye. He sustained two concussions from separate bomb attacks in 2007. Now he is back in the United States, with traumatic brain injury, TBI. He has eight lesions in his brain, and has been characterized as disabled.
Richards’ experience was chronicled in a story in the Sunday Review section of The New York Times, in an article with the headline “War Wounds.”
The saddest part of the story is when Richards tells The Times that he wish he had lost a leg rather than have TBI, which has strained his marriage and changed his personality.
The gist of the article is that America has failed its troops, and recent veterans, by not attending to their mental injuries, both on the battlefield and when they return to the states.
What fact can be more harrowing than this?
“For every soldier killed in war this year, about 25 veterans now take their own lives,” writes Times reporter Nicholas D. Kristof.
The sad part about Richards is that perhaps his mental woes could have been avoided. The Times reports that Richards was first hurt when a bomb destroyed his vehicle, and he was nauseated “and dazed” for a week after that. He went out again in the field, and three weeks later another bomb knocked him out.
Anyone who knows anything about concussions knows that the brain can recover from a concussion. But when a second one happens shortly after the first, the damage to the brain in dramatic, magnified, compounded. And Richard, true to the macho code of the military, never sought medical care for his hidden wounds.
He suffered from headaches, fatigue and insomnia. He could not concentrate. He was withdrawn.
The Times’ story was an indictment of the government, and VA’s, failure to take care of our nation’s warriors. It is a must-read story.
What is life like with a TBI veteran?
When Richards’ wife gets up in the middle of the night, she doesn’t return to their bed, according to The Times. She sleeps on the couch. She is afraid that Richards will attack her, thinking she is the enemy, if she come back to their bed.