In January 2006, Joe is sent again to Iraq, but his deployment is extended to 15 months.
Joe experiences multiple IED attacks, and his unit is ambushed, killing several men.
He is on alert 24/7, regularly receiving rocket or mortar fire.
Back home in April 2007, Joe again hides his symptoms.
In May, Joe separates from the active duty Army. He gets married and begins his first civilian job, which is difficult to find. He does not have a degree and has a difficult time translating his experience in the Infantry to meaningful work. He spends time as a security guard and doing manual labor for a moving company and in construction.
He misses the purpose and camaraderie of the Army, becomes irritable, and struggles to control the memories of war.
Joe also is hyper-vigilant, which particularly affects him at work.
Joe’s relationships with friends lapse, and he avoids anything that reminds him of his deployment.
There’s tension with his wife, and a new baby in 2008 adds to the stress.
Joe is now abusing alcohol and displays signs of depression, but he won’t admit — even to himself — that he needs help.
He has persistent headaches and is often dizzy and nauseated. In order to pay the bills, have access to healthcare and reconnect with the military that gave him purpose and belonging, he joins the Georgia Army National Guard.
Reports show that more than 300,000 warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan have experienced mild traumatic brain injury, but the number could be significantly higher since many concussions go unreported.
Many service members sustain multiple concussions, called cumulative concussion, which can have lifelong and sometimes debilitating effects.