Husband 'Not the Same' After Iraq Explosion

Gina Hardy never had a chance to enjoy her husband's homecoming from Iraq. He returned with back problems, a bad knee and another injury no one could see.

"You see pictures of soldiers coming home, reuniting with the families and … everything is great," she said. "We didn't have that kind of reunion. When I saw him for the first time, I was disappointed … He was just different and I couldn't understand why."

What they didn't know at the time is that Warren Hardy was suffering from the effects of an undiagnosed traumatic brain injury.

"He is not exactly the same man that I married," Gina Hardy said. "He is not the same person."

Warren Hardy came to California from England 12 years ago for a job in Silicon Valley. He met Gina and fell in love -- with her and with America.

Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the Hardys both enlisted in the Army. Gina was stationed in Germany.

After Warren became a U.S. citizen, he was sent to Iraq.

A few months into his tour, his armored vehicle rolled over a bomb and the explosion whipped Hardy violently around inside.

He said a witness who took a picture of him "said we went 10 feet up in the air."

Hardy blacked out, but military doctors didn't screen him for head injury. They checked his knees and sent him back into the fight two days later.

"I knew something was wrong," he said. "I was always banging my head into obstacles. And it's like my memory of what's around me wasn't keeping the information."

After nearly three years of experience with the unique injuries from improvised explosive devices, the U.S. government has only recently come to realize the unforeseen consequences for GIs subjected to these blasts.

"You don't have to be in the Humvee that gets hit by the bomb," said Paul Sullivan, a veterans advocate. "You could be in the Humvee behind it and have that blast wave hit you and still suffer some mild traumatic brain injury."

When Warren Hardy returned to California, his family grew with the birth of triplets. He was still having problems with concentration -- his memory was failing -- and he found he was unable to return to work.

"I couldn't even understand a paragraph of this complex stuff," he said. "Nothing. Nothing sunk in. And the harder I tried the more frustrated I got. … I used to be a software engineer. I had an incredible memory. And now I am struggling."

It wasn't until two years after his injury that doctors at the Veterans Administration finally diagnosed Hardy with traumatic brain injury.

"The bottom line is people return to their communities and they carry their head injuries," said Dr. Harriet Zeiner, a neuropsychologist at the VA in Palo Alto, Calif. "There are many of them that carry the effects for life."

Gina Hardy is unsure her husband will improve.

"I can't say," she said. "But you know, he is still my husband, right? … We made a commitment, and I still love him more than anything."

Warren Hardy fears there may be thousands of other returning servicemen suffering in silence.

"It's not that the military is leaving you behind," he said. "It's that they don't know they are leaving you behind."

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...