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Monday, December 03, 2007
Iraq War Leaves Hidden Wounds
Savannah Morning News, Sunday, December 2, 2007 -- Laboran Pickens sits inside the busy Savannah coffeehouse.
He flinches every time the grinders whine so strangers can walk away with frothy, caffeinated beverages.
He looks nervous. He assures his company he's fine.
He's on medication from Georgia Regional Medical Center.
It helps, but not always.
The Iraq nightmares still come, medicine or not.
Sometimes the spell is prompted by a loud noise or errant thought. It makes him space out. He moves like he's in a dream. He often disappears from his Hinesville home, sometimes for hours.
His wife spends those hours frantic, wondering where he is. She worries each time will be his last. That he won't come back to her and their three children.
He returns, but remembers nothing.
At 30, he is a shell of the man he once was.
It is estimated that up to 20 percent of the 1.5 million men and women who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq since America's War on Terror began may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries, according to the Defense and Veteran Brain Injury Center, which is part of the Walter Reed Medical Center.
And a 22-month study by Veterans for America of all soldiers returning to Fort Carson, Colo., found more than 17 percent of all servicemen and women who had deployed from the installation had some form of traumatic brain injury.
Veterans organizations fear that thousands of soldiers are living undiagnosed.
Many have left the military. Or, like Pickens, were asked to leave.
They carry invisible scars.
These wounds take the form of honorable discharges, public disturbances, police reports, missing memories, sleepless nights.
And their numbers are only increasing.
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