Staff Perspective: Listening to the Stories of Service Members and Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury

Staff Perspective: Listening to the Stories of Service Members and Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury

In continued recognition of Brain Injury Awareness Month, this is the final entry in a series of blog posts examining the stories of military families affected by traumatic brain injury (TBI). In previous weeks, I have covered books on TBI for children affected by a military-connect parent’s brain injury and the experience of the injured individual’s spouse/partner as they navigated changes in their partner and their role in the relationship.

Now that we have considered the experiences of the immediate family members, I’d like to refocus on the injured Service member/Veteran and highlight some important resources for better understanding the experiences of TBI through the words of the survivors themselves. The following links highlight several examples of interviews and documentaries with Service members and Veterans who experienced TBI during their military careers:

  • According to its website, (MTC) is a collection of resources intended to connect Veterans, their family members and friends, and other supporters with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their lives. On their TBI page, you will find resources that educate about TBI treatment and available services for Service members and Veterans affected by TBI. MTC also has an extensive library of brief (3-5 minute) video interviews with Veterans from every military era, dating back to World War II and the Korean War era. Examples include interviews with: Ryan, USMC Veteran and survivor of an IED-inflicted TBI in Afghanistan; Tyrone, an Army Veteran of the Vietnam War who suffered TBI and hearing loss as a result of a concussion grenade; Roger, a multi-service Veteran of OIF/OEF whose undiagnosed TBI contributed to other significant behavioral health issues.
  • A more extensive examination of the effects of TBI and various paths to recovery after injury is available in Along Recovery, available to view on Amazon and iTunes. This 90-minute documentary chronicles the multi-year recovery of four US soldiers evacuated from combat after experiencing TBI and their subsequent treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Stories about their symptoms and experiences, family relationships, and courses of treatment culminate in their medical review boards and the determination of whether each soldier will return to military service or instead reintegrate into civilian life.
  • The video blog (vlog) Adam at Ease, is comprised of nearly 80 short (generally 2-5 minute) video entries from 2012-2013 that detail Adam’s experience after military TBI and resources, recommendations, and helpful tips for Service members, Veterans, and their families for navigating TBI recovery. An Army combat Veteran, Adam filmed these vlogs while serving as the appointed deputy director of the Congressional Liaison Service for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), so the videos provide a unique perspective grounded in both his military and VA experience. Per the website, it is a national multimedia project offering information and resources about preventing, treating, and living with TBI. The Youtube Channel includes a variety of other videos about TBI, including several other interviews with military TBI survivors and the teams who are working to treat them.

Through resources such as those highlighted in the most recent three CDP blogs, providers can begin to better understand the experiences of their TBI-affected patients and support them through recovery. As with all injuries and behavioral health diagnoses, it is important to acknowledge that each TBI-affected individual’s story and experience will be different. But by seeking out the stories of Service members, Veterans, and their family members who have experienced TBI and its aftereffects, providers can be better prepared to understand and work with their own TBI-affected clients.

Staff Perspective: Military Spouses and Traumatic Brain Injury - Exploring the Stories of Affected Partners and Resources for Caregivers

Staff Perspective: Military Children and Traumatic Brain Injury - Books to Help Parents

The opinions in CDP Staff Perspective blogs are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Science or the Department of Defense.

Jennifer M. Phillips, Ph.D., is the Assistant Director for Research and Evaluation for the Center for Deployment Psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences at Bethesda, Maryland.