Every day soldiers return from their service with traumatic brain injuries that will seriously impact their lives for years, possibly even until they die. Lt. Col Richard Brunk knows all of this well. Now retired from the service, the chaplain had only been in Baghdad two weeks when a rocket destroyed the chapel he was in.
According to The New York Times, his wrist was broken, both of his eardrums were shattered, and he received massive shock to his head. And this was only the first of two explosions that would heavily damage Colonel Brunk’s brain during 2005.
It is now almost eight years later, and the problems from traumatic brain injury haven’t gone away. He has daily headaches, double vision, constant ringing in his ears and bouts of dizziness. Sometimes, he forgets words, faces, and names once familiar to him.
Brunk is in many ways lucky. Soldiers lose their lives just about every day in explosions similar to the ones he was involved in, and it is possible he lost friends in the same blasts that impacted his brain. He was also 54 when he was injured, a rarely high age for military injuries like these. He was unlucky in other ways however. His older age means he also faces a much harder path to recovery.
According to a study by the University of Oklahoma, most veterans treated for traumatic brain injury continue suffering from the symptoms for roughly eight years after the event that brought on their injuries. Considering TBI is considered the signature injury from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, thats a terrible statistic.
Once soldiers come home, they already have emotional hurdles to overcome while trying to change back from soldier to husband/son/wife/daughter, etc. Having to cope with continuous symptoms from brain injury like Colonel Brunk does is a curse that seems unfair for our veterans.