From Surviving to Thriving: Staff Sgt. Ben Ricard USMC's Story

"Family's what's going to heal you, family's what's going to take care of you," says Staff Sgt. Ben Ricard USMC. But before Ricard got home, the VA helped him start healing his physical, cognitive, and emotional wounds. Watch Ricard's powerful story.

Traumatic brain injury. The way I could describe it is just you're afraid. You're afraid, am I going to start forgetting things? Do I want to talk? When I came here, I couldn't move. You know, I had the ex-fixator on my right leg. I had a splint and a cast on my left leg. And I had a cast on my right arm. And plus, anytime I had to raise out of the bed I had this shell that was straped to my chest to keep my spine from moving and getting damaged. The night of the 12th of November I saw these guys digging in the road putting an IED in. We had to wait, you know. The situation had us wait til the next morning. I was driving the MRAP. My teammate was gunning. And I had another Army soldier in the back. I had a civilian contractor in the passenger's side and I had my interpreter in the back as well. When we got there, it was gone. I mean within hours. They moved it on us. We saddled back up on the road to see if we could clear it and see if we could find it again. Within about 5, 10 minutes of starting our crawl there we hit the IED. It blew me through the steel locked door it blew my gunner out the top like a cork. And the other individuals inside did not survive. Okay, pull, pull it. Oh, wow. You know, as a Marine, we know we're gonna to be taken care of. Nice happy stretch? Ya. Being in this hospital you see a lot of people worse off than what you are. And so, I'm like okay, I'm all right. Traumatic brain injury, my injury is scary. These feelings, nightmares, terrors not being able to sleep and you when you talk there's like this yawning sound in the back of your head when you're talkin' and when you have serious conversations. I don't want to be injured. Nobody wants to have something that's gonna stick with them for the rest of your life and a lot, you know, you fear and you fight through it, and you try to make it work the best you can. We'll work on that. You'll get there. I found that most of my worries and most of my feelings and most of my emotions are fought with through therapy. And there's this therapist Joe, and he's relentless. Ready? A little bit more. Okay? Good. Just don't break it. Okay. I haven't broken anything all day, Ben. I know. Try to relax. But my biggest thing that I contribute to him is, I couldn't lift my legs. I'm lying in bed and I couldn't...I had no power in my legs. And slowly after weeks and weeks of him just lifting my leg up and me holding it, and he's like you're doing good, you're doing good and I'm like this guy's crazy because I got no, you know, I can't feel nothing. And I just remember this one day when he was holding my leg up, and I'm about to tell him not today and by the time I get out not today he's holding my foot up and he's exercising with me. And I'm holding it up for like 5 seconds, you know and I'm like, Hey, Dad. Dad's sitting there, and I'm like look at this. Look! And I'm holding my leg up for 10 seconds. You know, and you're like, why not? Let's keep going. He's been my confidant when I've had my hardest days. My hardest times. You know you need that person to talk to. I mean, it's been him. A lot of people in my job wonder how our family is gonna take things. You're a father. You're a husband. That's tough. This wasn't my first combat deployment and every time before you leave, you tell your wife you essentially tell her goodbye. But you tell her what you want to happen if something goes wrong. And so when she showed up here at the hospitals and was traveling with me she had everything taken care to where she was in charge. She was the deciding factor on a lot of things for me recovering. My wife didn't leave my side. She was there, I mean if I had an itch to scratch, or I had to shave, or I had to move or anything, and the nurses, they just, they made a spot for her. And they made sure that she knew how to dress my wounds. She knew how to give me medicine. She knew how to care for me. You know, my family, my sisters they would all come down and visit and be part of it. Family is important. Family is what's going to heal you. Family is what's gonna to take care of you. Is Dad around? Watch this. Watch. Watch me fall on my tail end. Watch this babe. You're a patient here for so long, and you go back to your family and you have to make your own choice in your life you have to continue with your life to make it work. There's not enough words that can describe how great it feels to just to be, to be Dad again. Not the Marine. Not the husband. Just to be Dad. And that's all they know, and that's all they see so it's fabulous to be back home.
Posted on BrainLine October 28, 2011.

Excerpted from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Used with permission.