There are millions of us whose lives are connected to a combat veteran. To date, 1.5 million troops have fulfilled 3 million deployment billets to Iraq and Afghanistan. Most service members have served at least two and some as many as nine combat tours of duty. Between 30 and 40 percent of returning veterans today show symptoms of PTSD or report conditions of TBI. TRICARE, the military health care provider, reports that troops and their family members make and keep 100 thousand appointments for mental health care daily.
Since 2000, traumatic brain injury has been diagnosed in about 180,000 service members, the Pentagon says. But some advocates for patients say thousands more have suffered undiagnosed brain injuries. A RAND study in 2008 estimated the total number of service members with TBI to be about 320,000.
Each service member's war experiences and injuries directly impact at least three and as many as ten immediate family members and friends. This means that at least 4.5 million and as many as 15 million close family members and friends are deeply impacted by combat stress, PTSD, and/or TBI from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone.
When a veteran suffers from post-traumatic stress and/or traumatic brain injury, every member of his or her immediate family experiences the effects and, in many cases suffers what is known as secondary acute stress. This secondary traumatic stress resembles the universal and potentially complicated process of grief. Spouses, parents, and children of warriors pass through phases of shock and confusion, hurt, anger, guilt, fatigue, fear, and finally, acceptance.1