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Traumatic brain injury: Stories of strength and resilience

Army Sgt. 1st Class Bradley Lee got help for traumatic brain injury and continues to serve. (DVBIC photo by Trent Watts) Army Sgt. 1st Class Bradley Lee got help for traumatic brain injury and continues to serve. (DVBIC photo by Trent Watts)

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“I always said that I was invincible,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Bradley Lee. “This body is a machine. As long as you feed it, it’ll do anything and everything you’re mentally strong enough to tell it to do.”

After a 7.62 mm round bounced off his helmet during a firefight causing a traumatic brain injury, Lee changed his mind. “This body is vulnerable,” he said.

Lee’s revelation was not immediate. While spending some time with his family, Lee’s wife noticed his TBI symptoms — headaches, problems with memory. As he was about to redeploy to Afghanistan, she called his sergeant major to intervene.

“I was very grateful that she loved me enough to take that risk and go directly with the sergeant major and let him know that something wasn’t right,” Lee reflected.

Lee got the medical help he needed and continued to serve in the military for years.

“The Army can’t function if soldiers don’t take care of themselves,” he said. “You need to see the medical professionals and get things fixed.”

A Head for the Future, an initiative of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, curated Lee’s story on video as part of their TBI Champions series. TBI champions are members of the military and veteran community who sustained a TBI and share their stories of recognition, recovery and hope. Each champion’s video represents a unique and personal experience.

Their stories are unique because every TBI is different. Not everyone with a TBI experiences the same signs and symptoms as Lee did, needs an MRI for diagnosis, or requires the same kind of treatment.

Visit A Head for the Future to watch other inspirational testimonials by TBI Champions shared throughout Brain Injury Awareness Month, such as:

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Colin Woodside sustained a TBI after he plunged 60 feet while rock climbing without a helmet. With the help of his parents, Woodside returned to active duty and rock climbing — always wearing a helmet. 

During her first deployment, retired Navy Lt. Amanda Burrill slipped and lost consciousness. Before long, symptoms like loss of concentration and memory issues arose, but she kept working. One day, Burrill realized she couldn’t recall the brief she had just written, and she knew something was wrong. She sought help and doctors diagnosed her with TBI.

Doctors diagnosed retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Victor Medina with TBI after an improvised explosive device hit his vehicle during a deployment. After the TBI, Medina could barely speak, but with the support of his wife, Roxana Delgado, Ph.D., he became fully independent and went on to earn a master’s degree.

Follow A Head for the Future on Facebook and Twitter to see more stories posted throughout Brain Injury Awareness Month.

Visit the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center to learn more about TBI and what you can do as a service member, veteran, family member, caregiver, or health care provider, to help prevent, recognize, and treat TBI.

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