JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Traumatic brain injury is often called the signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Tens of thousands of military members are now struggling with the after-effects of TBI and the psychological scars of war.
Now, a new center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is giving broken soldiers new hope.
“I’m really glad that home is getting one of these centers,” said retired Staff Sgt. Spencer Milo.
Milo grew up Washington and later fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan, until an improvised explosive device changed his life in 2011.
“A child suicide bomber decided it was his day to detonate himself in front of my platoon,” he said.
Milo took shrapnel to his face. He survived severe brain trauma and now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He credits the specialized treatment offered at Intrepid Spirit Centers for saving his life.
“Our centers provide a model of care that is holistic and inter-disciplinary and has proved very, very effective to treating traumatic brain injury,” said David Winters, president of the nonprofit Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.
IFHF raised the $11 million from donors to pay for construction of the new facility.
Winters said innovative treatments such as art and music therapy, yoga and acupuncture have proven successful at other centers around the country. The new facility on JBLM will be the first of its kind on the West Coast.
“We want to bring this care here,” said Winters. “That we can provide it where the soldier lives at home, so he doesn’t have to travel for treatment. He doesn’t have to leave his family, he doesn’t have to leave his job on base but he can get the treatment he needs.”
According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, more than 25,000 service members suffered traumatic brain injuries last year.
Statistics for the first half of 2015 show nearly 12,000 brain injuries.
Milo said local soldiers should feel lucky to get state-of-the-art care right in their own back yard.
“Once you start to bring all of that together with the traditional pharmaceuticals and everything else, it gives you a whole new lease,” said Milo. “It gives you hope.”
Construction of the Intrepid Spirit Center on JBLM is expected to be completed in 18 to 24 months.