Ross Zafonte, DO: Giving Back to Our Military Members Whose Dedication and Service Stuns


Staff at Home Base are awed—daily, hourly—by the resilience, determination, and dedication of the veterans and service members with whom they work during the two-week immersion program. Dr. Zafonte recalls one Special Forces member who was injured multiple times but whose focus, invariably and unblinkingly, was to restore himself so as to return to theater to continue to serve. Military members like this man exemplify a dedication to protect our country; something all of us should take time to better understand and appreciate.

Dr. Ross Zafonte is the Chief of Traumatic Brain Injury for Home Base, part of the Wounded Warrior Project's Warrior Care Network.

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I’ve had the privilege of knowing a lot of veterans. And my appreciation for what they do, what they have served, what they have done, has grown logarithmically, just astronomically. And the reason it has is, as you hear these stories, as you hear the stories of our Special Forces members, as you hear the stories of other individuals, if you understand what they’ve been exposed to, what they go through, how they truly did it for a singular reason, to serve their country, to try to protect all of us here at home who benefit from that, how they see themselves as parts of the American great mission in so many ways, I think that you just grow in respect and you grow in a sense of “hey, we’ve got to do one day better every day for our service members.” I will recount the story of a remarkable Special Forces member, a gentleman who had been injured several times, significantly injured. And their focus on restoring themselves, but also getting back to theater, getting back so they could continue to serve. It really wasn’t on “I have a little pain here, I’m worried about this there.” Yes, that was part of the driver for seeing us, but I think a biggest part of the driver for seeing us was” how do I get back to serve again, how can I continue to contribute?” So this person’s unique drive to contribute back really served as an inspiration, not only for myself, but I think for many of our other faculty who treat people in the Home Base program and many of the trainees who were just stunned by the vigilance, by the dedication and by the drive. BrainLine is powered in part by Wounded Warrior Project to honor and empower post-9/11 injured service members, veterans, and their families.

Posted on BrainLine October 6, 2021. Reviewed October 6, 2021.

About the author: Ross D. Zafonte, DO

Dr. Ross Zafonte is the Clinical and Research Leader for Traumatic Brain Injury at the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program. He is the Earle P. and Ida S. Charlton Chairman of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School, vice president of Medical Affairs at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and Chief of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at MGH.

Headshot of Dr. Ross D. Zafonte