MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE --
Improvised explosive devices are a threat to every service member fighting overseas. For those who have faced them, IEDs can leave wounds everyone can see.
Serious wounds are not always visible on the exterior, injuries sustained in combat can leave physical ‘invisible wounds,’ like traumatic brain injuries.
Those with traumatic brain injuries have a voice and many with resources are listening.
A traumatic brain injury resource fair was held aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and the resources available are vast.
Most commonly reported as a concussion, brain injuries are not just caused by IEDs. Explosions, car accidents, sports injuries and any excessive jarring motion of the head can cause a brain injury. With the different incidents comes a different level of injury.
Varying from mild to severe, all brain injuries should be treated as important and although injuries are often unseen, there is help out there.
Seeking medical help for the injury will ensure treatment but traumatic brain injuries can leave lasting effects. Problems communicating, the inability to focus and even post traumatic stress disorder can fester in the wake of a brain injury.
Transitioning out of the military can be a problem for an individual who is suffering from a brain injury, said Carolyn Shields-Hebb, the regional care coordinator for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.
Shields-Hebb said she serves as a point of contact for service members as a way to relieve the stress of dealing with so many people trying to help. She said she can offer any resource someone suffering with a brain injury could need.
“I have a resource for everything, and if I don’t have it I’ll find it,” said Shields Hebb.
Deborah Waun, the program manager and a regional education coordinator for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, said she teaches everyone from spouses to corpsman to unit commands in order to educate the community on traumatic brain injuries and how to recognize the symptoms.
“It’s the signature of this war, and it’s a hidden wound unless you have a big scar on your head,” said Waun.
Educating the community helps reveal those who may have a hidden brain injury but service members also had an outlet through the fair.
Waun said her job is to educate about traumatic brain injuries but to also educate the wounded warrior service members about what MCB Camp Lejeune and Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center can provide.
The traumatic brain injury fair helped educate active duty service members but can also help the same service member’s transition out of the military if they decide to leave.
Nursing, dental assistants and x-ray technicians are some of the 10 career opportunities offered by the Reintegrate, Educate and Advance Combatants in Healthcare program. The program assists active-duty service members, with at least 90 days of service left, to work and get on-the-job training while earning a degree.
“The majority of our students, especially Marines, have no experience or knowledge of a certain career field. They just know they want to work in a particular career field,” said Kevin Kesterson, the REACH career coach at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune.
Although traumatic brain injuries can often go noticed by bystanders, resources and opportunities for those suffering from a brain injury are available and there are many individuals willing to help.
For more information on resources visit www.dvbic.org