By Cpl. Damany S. Coleman
The Department of Defense, privately funded and non-profit organizations all make massive contributions to their part in the fight against traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In 2010, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund completed construction of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. The NICOE is one of the premier efforts in researching, diagnosing and treating traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress and related injuries sustained by military personnel.
Wounded troops, families and friends aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune were more than happy to attend the ground breaking ceremony for the base’s own NICOE, near the already established Wounded Warrior Battalion – East headquarters and Fisher House June 13.
“This is about more than brick and mortar,” said Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.
“What we are really doing here today is building a commitment to our wounded warriors and their families. We’re rebuilding the lives of those who made a significant sacrifice for our nation.”
This NICOE, which is one of several to be built, will serve as a satellite location to the one built in Maryland. It is said to further enhance TBI research, diagnosis and treatment.
Each NICOE’s construction budget is approximately $10 million and will be an estimated 25,000 square feet. The Fisher House Foundation plans to build a Fisher House to accompany each NICOE satellite center to accommodate families, but since Camp Lejeune already has one up and running, the base is one step ahead of the game.
“I am very impressed with the work (Camp Lejeune) completed, prior to even starting this satellite,” said Arnold Fisher, philanthropist and honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. “I know there are quite a few Marines in this audience who came home with some problems. We will do everything possible to make you better. When you raise your right hand to defend this country and you return home with an issue, it is this country’s responsibility to help you.”
Maj. Stephen Taylor, with Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, who was diagnosed with PTSD, said even though the care provided at the WWBN-East is a great program, it can only handle a certain number of troops at a time.
“Having the NICOE here, we can push Marine or sailors (to go), and they can go back and be productive members of their commands much faster,” said Taylor. “It is going to put (getting help) at the forefront, and I think a lot of commands will participate in it.”
Taylor, who was diagnosed with a TBI earlier this year, said more often than not, these wounded troops end up waiting for treatment at their units, which can never come fast enough.
“I just left the NICOE (in Maryland) this past year,” said Taylor. “I told myself I wanted to get all of the treatment I could while I can, and experience different procedures such as acupuncture and electrotherapy. When I came home, I could continue the treatment I had there, and work on the practices and courses they provided to me. I think it was beneficial to getting me over the hump and how to deal with certain stresses in my life.”
Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Cole, who is currently receiving treatment for his TBI at the WWBn-East, said it’s a very reassuring feeling to know he has people who are willing to do anything they can to help him.
“It’s good to know you have help from civilian organizations, your chain of command and the Marine Corps as a whole,” said Cole. “You can’t ask for more. This center will help out a lot more wounded service members coming in, who are dealing with their issues. This will help them out greatly, hopefully making them better and able to function better in any kind of setting.”