Best Defense

A TBI in the family

Bethany Vaccaro wrestles with the questions raised by her brother’s half-living situation after he was in a Humvee hit by an EFP in Baghdad in January 2007. The soldier next to her brother was killed, but her brother wasn’t touched by the shrapnel, only by the shock wave: Today, two years into his injury, Robert ...

KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images
KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images

Bethany Vaccaro wrestles with the questions raised by her brother’s half-living situation after he was in a Humvee hit by an EFP in Baghdad in January 2007. The soldier next to her brother was killed, but her brother wasn’t touched by the shrapnel, only by the shock wave:

Today, two years into his injury, Robert lives in an apartment next door to our family home. My parents care for him and help him with daily tasks, managing his affairs, cooking his meals, cleaning his apartment, doing his laundry, cutting his fingernails, cajoling him to do what he needs to do, and cheering him up when it all gets to be too much. He has become their child all over again and their full-time job. His neurological signals remain "markedly abnormal," and he goes to occupational and physical therapy three times a week to work on his limitations. He is still unable to use his left hand and arm very much, and it curls against his side like a fractured wing, the white, cold fingers curved into a lifeless ball. He sometimes stretches it out, displaying his hard-won ability to part the fingers and lift the arm above his head. But then it pulls back into its bent, wounded position and languishes there with an extraneous air, flopping about as he walks with his uneven and heavy gait … We are unquestioningly happy that he is indeed still here, but something — some part of him — clearly came to an end that morning in Baghdad."

The whole thing, which ran in American Scholar last year, is worth reading.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. @tomricks1

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