Invisible wounds of war
Tens of thousands of servicemen and women are
dealing with lasting brain damage as the Pentagon scrambles to
treat these invisible wounds. David Martin reports.
The following is a script from "Invisible Wounds" which aired on
May 5, 2013. David Martin is the correspondent. Mary Walsh,
We all learned a lot in recent years about the dangers of head
injuries from contact sports like football. We now know that a hard
hit can cause brain damage that only becomes apparent after an
athlete's playing days are over. Football is violent, no doubt, but
it's nothing compared to war. And just as the National Football
League has struggled to come to grips with head injuries so has the
military - but on a much vaster scale.
An estimated quarter million servicemen and women have suffered
concussions over the past decade of war. Tens of thousands -- no
one knows the precise number -- are dealing with lasting brain
damage. The Pentagon, which did not recognize the problem until the
war in Iraq was almost over, is now scrambling to treat these
invisible wounds. And soldiers suffering from them sometimes end up
wishing they had a wound people could see.
Ben Richards: If I could trade traumatic brain injury for a
single-leg amputation I'd probably do that in a second.
You heard that right -- retired Army Major Ben Richards would
rather endure the disfigurement and disability of losing a limb
than live with the aftershocks of the concussions he suffered in
Iraq. The first one happened on Mother's Day 2007 when his armored
vehicle was rammed by a suicide car bomber.
Ben Richards: Everyone that was in the vehicle, walked away with a
pretty significant concussion. My head hurt for about a week. I was
nauseated for a week. Literally couldn't see straight.
David Martin: So what do you do when you have symptoms like
Ben Richards: Go out again and fight the next day.
David Martin: What are you doing going back into combat? I mean,
you've got men you're responsible for...
Ben Richards: Exactly. That's why I went back into combat.
In two months of fighting, seven of the 17 armored vehicles
under Richards command were destroyed. Richards had a second
vehicle blown out from beneath him just weeks after the first.
Ben Richards: Once again we all walked out with all of our parts
Richards had no visible wound but he had suffered an injury that
would end his Army career and very nearly ruin his life.
Farrah Richards: He spent a lot of time by himself in closed
Farrah Richards could see her husband was a changed man when he
came home but couldn't see why.
Farrah Richards: As a spouse, I wasn't thinking "he has traumatic
brain injury." That wasn't even something that I really knew
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