Laura Wilcox
The Herald-Dispatch
May 6, 2008

One West Virginia nonprofit organization is reaching out to West Virginia veterans who may have a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The organization, called Thanks! Plain and Simple, is a comprehensive program that helps veterans and families. One of the program’s recent efforts involves informing veterans of a computer program that improves memory and cognitive functioning.

The organization presented information about its efforts during a conference Tuesday afternoon at Marshall University’s Memorial Fountain.

“The Brain Fitness Program” is administered by the Easter Seals Society and is a free 40-hour, eight-week program for those who qualify, according to Anne Montague, executive director of Thanks! Plain and Simple. The software allows veterans to access the program from their own computer.

Montague hopes the efforts of the Thanks! program can make West Virginia a model for the rest of the nation.

Ron W. Wroblewski, president of Thanks! Plain and Simple, said the organization was developed to remind veterans that they will be taken care of while in service and when they return.

“Being a Vietnam veteran, we were treated horribly upon our return. We cannot let that happen again,” he said.

Troy Whitaker, a Hurricane native who retired from the Air Force last June and served in the Iraq War, is currently working to get registered for the TBI project. Whitaker has been diagnosed with post taumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and TBI.

“Once I’m done with the program, I’ll try to reach out across the state to veterans who have TBI,” he said.

Whitaker said he wants to help other veterans as much as possible. He said a stigma seems to surround TBI, in that people don’t want to admit they have it because they fear it will hurt their military careers.

“I don’t know that that’s necessarily true,” he said.

Symptoms of TBI include being easily irritated or angered, headaches, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, dizziness, trouble with memory or concentration and problems sleeping.

One in every nine American soldiers deployed to Iraq suffers a traumatic brain injury, according to information from Easter Seals.

Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving West Virginia recipient of the Medal of Honor, also spoke Tuesday. The WW II veteran reminded attendees of the frequent disconnect between veterans of different wars.

“We have to remember that every person who returns from war is not the same person who went,” he said.

While some return from war with visible injuries, Williams said many struggle with unseen disabilities that still need to be addressed.

“Do I have PTSD? Yes. I’ve been out of the war 63 years, but I still have that same unseen disease,” he said.

Fortunately, there is much more information available about those disorders today, he said.

More information about the TBI program is available by calling the Easter Seals at 866-423-4981, or by e-mailing veterans@easterseals.com.