PTSD
Day 14 TBI Challenge for CHANGE for Veterans
14th Mar 2011 | Posted in: PTSD, TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury, Veterans 1

Day 14-Galen Roberts-His story in his own words.  Look for the common threads from the other TBI survivors you have read about during the Month.

Remember!!  The 31 Day TBI Challenge for CHANGE during March, Brain Injury Awareness Month, consists of just two parts:

 1.)    Please learn something new about TBI every day.  We will be posting an article daily on our Facebook and website pages to make it easy for you to learn. Today’s article is below.

 2.)    Help facilitate CHANGE by partnering with The Arms Forces by assisting us in continuing our efforts for invisibly wounded veterans by collecting your CHANGE daily and at the end of March donating the money to The Arms Forces. (contact information below) Create a jar and label it:

“The Arms Forces CHANGE for TBI” and put it out where you and others will see it.  When someone asks you what it is all about, share with them a bit about what you have learned about TBI.  Share stories of the people you will learn about through our posts on Facebook and how their lives have been forever changed by their injuries.

If collecting change every day is not your thing then be a part of the CHANGE by making a donation to The Arms Forces through our website www.thearmsforces.org or by mailing a check to the address below.

Day 14-Galen Roberts-His story in his own words.  Look for the common threads from the other TBI survivors you have read about during the Month.

I met Galen through an online discussion site about 7 years after my injuries.  I was asked to give an inspirational speech for a conference sponsored by the site and got to meet Galen in person.  I knew before I headed to St. Louis, that Galen had a TBI.  I cannot tell you how much it meant for me to meet someone else with a TBI.  For 7 years I was a survivor, spending somtimes 12-15 hours a day researching TBI, yet I had never met someone “like me”.  When we met it was an instant bond that only two TBI survivors can have. And, later I would find out he is a military veteran!  No coincidences!!!   It meant the world to me to have someone “get me” and he told me he felt the same.  I tell you this story about two people understanding each other because that is a big part of what The Arms Forces organization is all about.  This is what makes us unique and what makes us successful!  May I now introduce you to Galen!  You are going to love him!! 

by Galen:

My father was a Marine who entered the service during the Korean War, the war ended, though, while he was in boot-camp. He was the son of a small town preacher/cattle man. He got into some trouble as a teen and was told to join the military or go to jail. After he left the marines, he married my mother – the daughter of a cattle farmer who also became a preacher in later years. Her maiden name is Kupka – related to Frantisek Kupka, a famous Austrian/Czech painter who has paintings in The Guggenheim Museum.

My brother joined the Army long before I did. He was an 82nd Airborne Infantryman, Black Hat (airborne instructor), as well as a Drill Sergeant, and a Pathfinder Instructor.

I entered the service with no college. I tested high enough on the ASVAB that I was given a test(the Defense Language Aptitude Battery) to see if I qualified to go to school as a military linguist upon my arrrival at my Basic Training duty-station. I passed, but none of the units I was sent to were willing to give me up for a year to go to Linguist School at The Presidio in California. I was told I would have to have it made as a stipulation on my contract when I reenlisted at the end of my four-year obligation if I wanted to attend … unless I had a command who was feeling particulary generous to a low ranking 71Lima (an Administrative Specialist – one of only two jobs the guy at the MEPS offered me). My physical fitness scores and mental acuity scores were high enough in my military record that I was invited to try out for Delta Force – a special forces team which allows its members to live as civilians undercover. In this case, I was told that I did not have to have permission of the senior rank in my command to try out and join Delta Force … however I did not have enough time (far less than a month, I think) to get my swim time down to a passing time. I was free to come back the next year … by that time, however, I had already realized that I needed to get out and come back in as an officer … if I still wanted to rejoin the military after having a fresh taste of civilian life.

As I think I already mentioned. I was negotiating with an Air Force recruiter to join as a military intelligence officer when the accident took me out of the running.

Many of the men in my family are military – ranging from Infantry to Air Traffic Control to Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD of Hurt Locker fame).

 January, 2002

In January of 2002 my daughter and I spent an afternoon initially trying to earn extra cash by delivering “Pennypower” local ad magazines. Taking advantage of my newly acquired post- baccalaureate status, we were using my off-time in a productive fashion … at least that was our intention.
As a high functioning TBI survivor, I am asked to do things which weigh heavily on the “too much” side, yet as a result of the injury, I myself cannot even tell what is too much … if the equation has too many factors; yet to avoid these situations, I would have to close myself off from the world and become a hermit – which is unacceptable to me at this point in time. This is why it is of utmost importance for high-functioning survivors to have a support group. Other people just cannot “get it”.

My daughter caught me spacing off at a green-light. She prompted, in the annoyed manner only an adolescent can muster, “Dad! Your light is Green!” (Okay … I really have no recollection of how her words sounded that particular time, I just remember the typical age thing she had goin’ on; upon recounting the event, she didn’t expound to that extent ;) – I “punched it”.

I was in the intersection before I realized a car was coming at me from my daughter’s side. We were T-boned by an elderly lady who had been traveling approximately 60 mph when she hit the brakes. The impact left me in a 3pt. Glasgow Coma with bloody trauma to the right temporal and frontal-lobes of my brain (any number lower than 3 is death) – I was in a coma for 8 days.

That was nine years ago.

The past nine-years have been challenging, to say the least. Within those nine years, I have been misled, I have been blamed wrongfully, I was asked for a divorce, and I watched the house I acquired with the settlement money foreclosed on (the effort of working a second job – although I had been verbally limited to a 40-hour work week, was not sufficient enough to keep this from happening). I have been left holding the responsibility for bad decisions made by dependents and superiors – because I could not recall details that led up to me doing what “should not have been done”; my impaired memory has served as the default “get out of jail free card” by many.

As an Army veteran who had left the military and taken advantage of the G.I. Bill to earn a degree, my attempt to return as an Air Force officer – they had nicer chow halls ;) – was thwarted by the TBI. Fortunately, I was allowed to retain the job I had accepted with the university as a student – a custodian: I must say, if you have to accept employment as a custodian, do so at a university … if you can (these positions are coveted when the unemployment rate is on the high end). The perks are amazing (for a custodian) and you should have access to almost every technological advantage … if you have the right approach and honorable intentions. A veteran will typically find other vets throughout the various departments. A university will usually give a semester’s worth of college classes per year free to the employee or his dependants … AND a veteran’s military time in service will be added towards the retirement requirements in the employment of a state or federal institution.

Things that could once be overcome, overcome my efforts if not monitored carefully. Poor meal planning will affect the firing of the synapses – and we survivors need every bit of firepower we can get. Bad stress – and other negative emotions – will alter the body’s chemistry; this also impedes recall and deduction. A lack of sleep does, too.

A TBI survivor MUST NOT get in a hurry – if it is not an urgent situation that requires “hurry”. If hurried, I will spend exponentially the amount of time I thought I saved by having to go back and make up for what was missed or done poorly; this goes for tasks, as well as communication – I have spent a week now coming back to reread, edit, clarify, and add to this piece of writing.

If you are a TBI survivor, LISTEN to your body and don’t be afraid to say, “That’s enough. I’m done today.” I have found that when I’m tired, things might look alright at the time, but, when I come back, they are far short of alright.

Get used to being misunderstood and misread. The people probably wouldn’t believe the truth about the situation even if they would give a survivor the time it takes to explain it – IF said survivor could even remember the chain of events, fully.

Truth can be stranger than fiction. As a person who is enduring TBI, you will realize this when something finally triggers your recall … and get used to being nailed because you tried to fill in the missing gaps with logic and supposition.

Even though the survivor might have lived an honorable, honest life, he/she WILL be doubted and their character will be called into question – this is the hardest part: to be relegated to the realm of the untrustworthy. AGAIN, get a support group even if it is an online one because you lack ready transportation – as I do.

As a person with TBI, I would tell the survivor to write, write, WRITE! It will stimulate the rerouting of the electrical blue-print of the brain … and give the person many more creative options to tackle solutions to problems with. It will help organize thoughts. It will allow the person to learn when and where he/she is lacking AND it will be a reference for the survivor and others who will doubt memory of the situation. It will also be the survivor’s story and will make this “DAMN” frustration mean something. Somewhere, somehow, sometime, somebody will read these words and it will give them strength and/or understanding.

Lastly, I would say to the survivor and his/her loved ones, ” Don’t waste your pain. Make it mean something”.

Thank you for being a freind to all of us Galen, and for sharing your story and heart with us today!

With open arms,

Pam Hays

Founder/President and severe TBI survivor

The Arms Forces

PO Box 981

Maumee, OH  43537

419-491-1555

www.thearmsforces.org-website

hope@thearmsforces.org –email

www.facebook.com/thearmsforces.org

www.sharecare.com/user/pam-hayes

www.twitter.com/thearmsforces

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