By Chrisanne Gordon, MD
Veterans Day has traditionally been a time for Americans to pause and thank the men and women who, through many years and too many conflicts, have helped ensure the blessings we share in this free and independent land. This one-day observance lets us focus on an awesome debt of gratitude that deserves to be acknowledged every day of every year.
More than just saying how grateful we are to the millions of military men and women who have served with exceptional skill, leadership and vitality, we should all choose to celebrate their continued service to others. While we all know the accomplishments our military has achieved overseas and in stateside posts far from home, we may not be as in tune to the legacies being created in our own communities. We all remember great leaders who have served in the military, including 29 of 45 U.S. presidents; leaders in industry such as Robert A. McDonald, former CEO of Procter & Gamble Company and former Secretary of the Veterans Administration; Gen. Colin S. Powell, former Secretary of State; and Robin Quivers, radio talk-show host. The list is formidable, demonstrating that traditional military values of honor, commitment, and sense of duty play a defining role in shaping our nation’s leaders of the past, present and future.
These same values help make millions of our veterans, in every walk of life, an ongoing value to their communities. One excellent example is Corey O’Brien, who returned from service in the Global War on Terror with symptoms of two devastating, but often “hidden” injuries suffered from a concussive blast: traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic shock disorder (PTSD). Challenges created by these injuries threatened his personal life and career, leading Corey to medical treatment as well as transcendental meditation, which taught him new ways to treat and heal himself. Today, he’s an award-winning schoolteacher in Ohio and well-known national advocate for the power of transcendental meditation. There are so many others like him, veterans who are leaving a legacy of hope and healing behind them.
The experiences of veterans like Corey O’Brien, who are successfully dealing with traumatic brain injuries, are inspirational because the other side of the coin can be so devastating. Left undiagnosed and untreated, veterans of all wars who sustained brain injuries are vulnerable to the too-common consequences of TBI, including substance abuse, unemployment, homelessness and much too often, suicide. We currently have more than 750,000 veterans struggling with their recent wounds of service, as well as an estimated 200,000 veterans of the Vietnam War and we need them to remember all those who served our nation every day of the year.
Their legacies of hope and healing are why I founded the Resurrecting Lives Foundation [resurrectinglives.org], a non-profit organization dedicated to seeing that veterans with TBI receive expert medical care, rehabilitation and community support services they need for a successful return to civilian life. Many times, just listening to the veterans’ stories is enough to offer advice to a successful path to education or employment that will be the path to greatness, as it was to Corey O’Brien.
As we pause on Veterans Day 2019 to thank those who have done so much to defend our freedoms, we must give a special salute to those who continue the mission at home by creating a legacy of hope and healing for the next generation.
Dr. Chrisanne Gordon, author of “Turn the Lights On!” is an Ohio physician who has personally struggled to recover from a brain injury, an experience that inspired her to create the Resurrecting Lives Foundation to help military veterans recover from TBI.