In recent years, public awareness has been growing of the increasing presence of brain injuries in combat soldiers and veterans. Many doctors and therapists are now working with these soldiers and veterans but often do not fully grasp how this population may differ from other patient populations.
The military is in no way simply a nine to five job. For many soldiers and veterans it encompasses much of their life and identity. Under combat deployment, there are no days off from work. The soldier is on duty 24-7 without a true break or rest. Due to the demands and risks of the military, soldiers are part of a culture that is very different from that of the civilian world. For instance, it’s relatively common for an employee at a store to question a supervisor’s directives and perhaps even lodge a complaint with management. This process may last for several days and either see action taken or not. In combat, a soldier is not in a position to question a direct order. Life and death decisions have to be made moment by moment. The immediacy of danger also leads soldiers to develop intense and special bonds with one another. The loss of a fellow solider in combat may be felt as strongly as the loss of a family member. Since being a soldier so often encompasses so much of the individual’s life and identity, being dismissed from the military due to an injury is not like being fired from a job. The effects of emotions such as grief and anger felt resulting from losses suffered in the course of a veteran’s service are often experienced on an entirely separate level of magnitude.
Below is a list of a few books that may help doctors and therapists to better understand this population:
Hidden Battles on Unseen Fronts: Stories of American Soldiers with Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD by Patricia Driscoll and Celia Straus
On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace and On Killing: The Psychological Risks of Learning To Kill in War and Society by Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman
Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org