A Head for the Future presents three compelling stories about getting help
Jennifer, a military spouse, spoke up when she noticed symptoms in her husband, Army Sgt. 1st Class Bradley Lee. Air Force veteran Staff Sgt. Tina Garcia used a beauty pageant to raise awareness about her injury and recovery. And Air Force veteran Tech. Sgt. Krys Bowman took up adaptive sports to support his recovery.
In advance of Brain Injury Awareness Month, which we recognize every March, a Defense Department traumatic brain injury (TBI) initiative released new video profiles featuring the inspiring stories of three military members who experienced brain injury and sought help to recover. The videos, released under the A Head for the Future initiative, are available on the A Head for the Future Stories website and on the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury’s YouTube channel.
“These videos highlight how important it is for our military community to be safe; recognize the signs of TBI; and know when to see a health care provider,” said Scott Livingston, director of education at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC). “A wide range of resources is available for service members and veterans who have sustained traumatic brain injuries, and we want them to know that TBI recovery is possible with treatment.”
Garcia was diagnosed with a TBI after a motor vehicle collision.
“I had to relearn how to read and write, and the worst part was recalling my own family. I would lose words, and I would get angry,” she said. “I’m a fighter, but I really could not just soldier my way through.”
Getting connected with TBI resources helped put Garcia on a path to recovery and to build the confidence she needed to compete in the 2016 Ms. Senior Colorado Pageant, where she shared her recovery story. She had never been in a pageant before.
“(I learned) that one size does not fit all with a TBI. It’s a growth process, and it’s about recovery,” said Garcia.
According to recent Defense Department data, since 2000 more than 352,000 service members have been diagnosed with TBI — most in noncombat settings. Falls, motor vehicle collisions, sports-related incidents and training accidents are the most common causes of noncombat-related brain injuries among service members.
Bowman sustained multiple TBIs through combat and military training. After being diagnosed by a health care professional, he got involved in a military adaptive sports program as part of his recovery — and his family was with him every step of the way.
“I started smiling again, and I started to feel the wind in my hair again,” Bowman said.
In 2015, he participated in the Warrior Games and competed on behalf of a fallen service member.
While deployed in Afghanistan, Lee sustained a brain injury during a fire attack. He didn’t know he was injured. When Lee was home on temporary leave, his wife Jennifer noticed that he was experiencing memory loss. Once he returned to Afghanistan, she called his sergeant major to share her concerns and request a medical checkup for her husband. Lee was subsequently diagnosed with TBI and is thankful that his wife spoke up.
“The Army cannot function if soldiers can’t take care of themselves,” said Lee. “You need to see the medical professionals and get things fixed.”
Now, he thrives in his military career and continues to serve.
To learn more about traumatic brain injury, the A Head for the Future initiative, and to find additional videos and educational resources on preventing brain injury, visit the A Head for the Future website and follow A Head for the Future on Twitter and Facebook.