320,000 Troops with traumatic brain injury!

There’s an interesting report published by the RAND Survey Research Group about the U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  About 1.5 million U.S. forces have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  The report estimates that about 300,000 of our troops suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression and 320,000 troops suffer from some level of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The report really surprised me.  I’ve mentioned before that TBI and PTSD are the “signature wounds” of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, but I really didn’t realize that TBI was more prevalent.  What really scares me is the Sam Salutes_4_19_08fact that our U.S. troops are returning to both Iraq and Afghanistan for multiple deployments.  Can you imagine spending 15 months in Iraq, surviving the ordeal unscathed and returning home—only to be sent back for a second, third or even fourth deployment! 

Something has to give.  Unfortunately right now, the only thing that is giving is the 1 percent of our population (our military) who are being sent back to Afghanistan and Iraq over and over again.  Terri Tanielian, who is a RAND researcher said this about the report, “There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan”. 

Sam’s medical status:

From Sam’s dad after a visit last week:

As I sat outside today with Sam and Erin in the beautiful sunshine and cool breeze, I marveled at God’s handiwork and must have been staring at Sam so although we were only a few feet apart he gave me a little wave…as if to say, Yeah Dad, I’m here…It snapped me back to reality and made me laugh at the same time…I noticed so many things today that seem so insignificant in and of themselves; unless you know where Sam has been and is going. The sun was direct today so Erin had given him some sun blocker lotion to which he applied himself on his arms…Erin brought along his sunglasses and when he was in the shade, lifted them up above his eyes to rest on his forehead without aid…When he coughs or clears his throat, you can hear his voice so Erin is quick to take advantage of the moment and always prompts him to use that voice, (guttural though it may be) and wrap it around some chosen words…I distinctly heard him say Dad and Mom, Erin, Marty, and Donny; along with a host of words that he had used regularly in the past…He repeated a phrase from one of his favorite shows; (Kids in the Hall) and made a gesture to himself with his thumb and said, “Look at me; I am an Elephant rider.” I cracked up and thought he was referring to the pictures of him actually riding an elephant in Thailand…Ha! When Erin was preparing to shave him on Wednesday night, she asked him if he was looking forward to the shave to which he made this gesture…He stroked his beard and waved bye-bye…

I never thought these little things would bring so much joy and thought back to when he was a little baby and making these advances as he developed…It isn’t a development this time, but a restoration and God is the artist…I have a friend that says, “Now God is just showing off!” As Sam makes these daily advances, I try to keep them in perspective and not become too impatient, but it is difficult…I, among many, constantly yearn for his total restoration, but recognize God’s timing is best and things acquired slowly are usually permanent. So we wait and rejoice in the baby steps, and meet all obstacles with prayers of thanksgiving and praise…

The picture below is Sam throwing me a salute…very snappy too…he also showed Erin and I today salutes that he performed in Jr ROTC in high school, and in boot camp with a rifle…nothing wrong with his memory there…

I’ll keep you informed…Much love,

From Erin’s mother after our visit on Saturday:

I was holding Sam’s hand when I decided to kiss it.  Sam immediately pulled my hand to his mouth and kissed it.  I held back tears, but barely.  I then went to hug him good-bye, and I kissed him on the cheek.  Sam pulled my face to his and kissed my cheek too.  Erin told Sam to mess up my hair, and he reached his hand over my head and messed my hair all up.  That really took a lot of coordination!  When we got in the car to leave and on our way out, I began to cry.  I couldn’t hold it in any longer.  Tears came flooding out.  I was overcome with hope.  This trip to see Sam and Erin was really special.



7 Responses to 320,000 Troops with traumatic brain injury!

  1. Denny in Antelope says:

    Dear Eric and Julie,
    Oh my, what great faith, love and strength God has given you! I want you to know that I pray every day for Sam, Erin, both of you, both families, and Sam’s caregivers. What a privilege it is to pray to the One who gives abundantly to those who love him. Everything you both wrote in this posting reflects God’s greatness and goodness. It makes it hard sometimes to imagine that a Father could give his only Son to suffer and die to bring us in part the personal joys that you shared here with us. May God continue to uphold you and give you peace. -Denny

  2. Kris says:

    I’m so happy to hear of Sam’s progress. Keeping him in my prayers!

  3. Kris Abbruzzi says:

    Well hey there Sam, Erin and Family!

    I was away last week and how cool it was to come back, check in on you folks and the first thing I see is a pic of Sam saluting perfectly! And ALL of the new photos are AWESOME. Sam, you are looking great, and it’s really possible to SEE the progress that you’re making! And Eric and Julie – your posts made my eyes sweat (and I’m sure countless other eyes were sweating too!) There IS progress – and lots of it! Sam will reach total restoration – yes he will. God bless you Eric, Julie, Sam, Erin, Tony and everyone. You are all so strong, so brave, so courageous. Thoughts, prayers, support and LOADS AND LOADS of Angel Hugs are sent your way every single day. Hugs to you all and keep up the AWESOME work Sam and Doctor Erin!!!!

    – Kris, a Soldiers’ Angel from RI

  4. Aunt Joy says:

    First I love the pictures of you, Sam is looking great and Erin you are beautiful as always.
    The numbers on the TBI and PTSD are scary. I don’t think the average American understands what these men and women are going through for them. I see it every time one of my co workers returns from the war. It takes them about two months or more to recover and start to act themselves again. It’s distressing to us, imagine how it is on their families. And just when everyone is feeling good again, it’s off again on another rotation. There is no end for them. The military is short of people, the Air Force is filling in for the Army and can’t supply enough folks for either force. These people are true heros. Going back over and again until they can not.
    God bless you Sam, you have done your part for America and it’s seemingly ungrateful people. We will always remember the sacrifice you have made and we will be eternally grateful.
    Love you bunches,

    Aunt Joy and Uncle David

  5. Amanda says:

    I love to see Sam’s progress and to hear of the small but sure steps that are being taken. Sam’s picture is in the front window of our office and people go by daily looking and being reminded of those who have been serving our country. I pray for Erin and Sam and look forward to the visits I am able to make to the hospital.

  6. julie says:

    As my fellow Soldiers’ Angel Kris mentioned, my eyes are ‘sweating’ at the moment. It’s great to read and see the steady progress being made by Sam and ‘feel’ the amazing love and support of his family. The love radiates from all of you and is incredibly heartwarming and inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing. My family and I, as always, are sending positive support, and prayers your way each and every day! keep up the great work and keep the faith!


  7. Paul Danenberg says:

    Every week when I read this blog my eyes sweat. They sweat out tears of incomprehensible joy at the reading of Sam’s tremendous progress. I love to hear about how he is further along each time I read this blog. I thank you Eric, and Julie, for your loving portrayal of how the seemingly minor stuff can mean SOOOO much. When Eric said ” he gave me a little wave…as if to say, Yeah Dad, I’m here…It snapped me back to reality and made me laugh at the same time…” it just made me feel that, and for that I thank you. Keep up the good spirits and strong faith. I love you guys.

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