Topic: Opinions & Commentaries
I was recently asked; what is it that drives you and the AVBI organization? So I thought I would share with you a little story…………
In 2001 when my son was at Walter Reed for the second time; after nearly 10 months of medical treatments, brain injury rehabilitation and therapies, we were waiting for the medical board to make a decision about his medical retirement. My Son and I had met another soldier, Eric, who had also suffered a severe brain injury when his parachute had gotten caught in a helicopter blade during a training mission. I watched this young soldier for weeks, he would dress each morning in his BDU’s and tattered beret to stand in front of the hospital entrance, waiting for the opportunity to salute Officers as they entered the hospital. I asked him one day what he was doing; his response to me, was “manning my post, mame”.
Chris was medically retired in April 2001 and we came home to Florida. Every time I fought for new opportunities for my own son’s recovery, the thought of what had happened to Eric would cross my mind. Chris and I went back to Walter Reed in the Summer of 2002 to visit, and Eric was still there. The results of his brain injury had left him without a mission and the bureaucracy of paperwork left him on Medical Hold in the grips of a system that didn’t know what to do with him. I was furious and broken hearted knowing that this soldier could have been my own son. I couldn’t do anything to help him at the time and yet the vision of him standing in front of Walter Reed haunted me for years. I tried constantly to track him down and find out what had happened to him, but all the information I had led me to dead ends. So I guess it was because of my constant comparison of how Eric was treated vs. my own son, that I found myself fighting the bigger battles.
I became a loud and strong voice for better treatment of TBI wounded. I started reaching out to other families in hopes that we could find ways to help one another. I started a web site to try and find the lost soldiers like Eric, because he was the reason I was driven. My son would be ok, I would see to that, but it was the “Eric’s” that kept me up at night. I met many other family members who were constantly searching for answers and I found purpose in sharing the information that I had learned, and together we all found comfort in offering peer support to one another.
This past year, through the AVBI.org web site, I got an email from a rather desperate wife asking for guidance & help. I contacted her and did what I could by using the connections that I had made over the past years to help her, and help her husband. The results from the email and those phone conversations have been rather amazing. I’ve learned that her husband is now a volunteer training service dogs for veterans; he also went skiing, met new friends and seemingly has a renewed and positive outlook on life. Now here is the kicker; her husband, the soldier, is Eric……. Yes; the Eric that my son and I met at Walter Reed….
So the reason I decided to tell you this story is to remind you, that there are many brain injured Veterans who do not have advocates and there are also many family members who are tired of fighting the bureaucracy and just don’t know where to turn. So now that I’ve shared this story; I’m asking each one of you to PLEASE pass on the AVBI.org information to everyone you know. AVBI can only be effective if we can find the ones that need us most.