Because of those roadside bombs, many of the deployed soldiers are returning with traumatic brain injuries or TBI. It's the signature injury of this war. With better protective gear, troops are more likely to survive the blasts, but they live with long-term injuries.
Captain Matthew Staton knows that first-hand. He saw more than 50 roadside bombs go off during his deployment. "It's like you're getting your bell rung. Sometimes, you see stars, sometimes you don't." CPT Staton now suffers from a brain injury. “It's depressing, frustrating, disheartening. I'm a 30-year-old man... it's hard." The symptoms can range from headaches, irritability to short-term memory loss, which is what Captain Staton faces as his biggest challenge. "My wife could give me a grocery list… I’ll leave the house, go to Albertson’s, know I needed to go to grocery store, but when get there, I forget why I went to Albertson's."
He's not alone, though. Traumatic brain injuries are a widespread problem from this war. "The incident rate for traumatic brain injuries are 178 for every 1000 returning soldiers. That's 17.8%," COL John Cho, the post hospital commander says. For the majority of the soldiers, doctors say it can take months before any symptoms surface. “We treat the symptoms. If a soldier has a headache, we give them medicine. If the soldier can't sleep, we give them meds to help them sleep."
As for Captain Staton, he says he's different now than he was when he deployed 4 years ago. "Unfortunately, with TBI, there is not a quick fix."
The mountain post was the first army installation in the country to start screening and treating traumatic brain injuries.