Defense department awards grants to university for vets’ rehabilitation
Published: Monday, October 31, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 05:11
Before he was deployed overseas at age 19, William Terry enjoyed skydiving and riding roller coasters.
Then came his five years of service in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait in the Air Force as part of security forces and the Marines as counterintelligence. His service ended after he received an honorable medical discharge.
After enduring lateral reconstructive surgery on his right ankle, a 25 percent hearing loss, vertigo from blast damage and equilibrium imbalance, the 32-year-old vice president of recruitment and activities for Student Veterans Association can no longer skydive or ride roller coasters.
He said he had no choice but to leave his service when he did.
"I could not perform 100 percent of my duties after my injuries, and it was either get out honorably and deny my rank, or be put on a desk," Terry said.
The university was recently awarded a $19.7 million grant from the Department of Defense to create a consortium for research benefitting wounded war veterans.
The team will work to help individuals like Terry, focusing on post-surgery rehabilitation, specifically in the muscular and skeletal systems.
Professor Steven Stanhope, the principal investigator of the university's team, described the project's goal as achieving optimal recovery in patients so they can return to their work or duty just as they had before.
He was also honorably discharged, from the U.S. Naval Academy for color blindness.
"The Department of Defense has stated a clear expectation that the orthopedic rehabilitation of a wounded warrior should result in that person obtaining the highest possible level of function," Stanhope said.
The consortium's first year will be dedicated to discovery and learning about current clinical research, policies and rehabilitation procedures. The remaining four years will focus heavily on expanding research to be infused in already established rehabilitation programs.
Stanhope said the fourth and fifth year would feature large-scale, funded projects. The funds brought in through those projects will assist in sustaining the consortium.
Senior Christine Beckman, an athletic training major, helped secure the grant. With several friends overseas in the military and two grandfathers who fought in World War II, Beckman has a personal interest in this project.
"We're free because of them," Beckman said. "Its always kind of hit home for me."
She said she wants to help veterans regain the ability to do simple things like play softball games or climb a flight of stairs.
After years of service, Terry said the transition to normal college life was not easy. The health and behavioral science major questions whether he can tolerate a walk to class or get out of bed without feeling handicapped every day.
Terry underwent rehabilitation through the military, whose system he said has structural problems.
"Your physical therapist is basically that other military member that's probably the same age as you or maybe a couple years older than you, that's not really licensed, but they're considered technicians that are doing all the work," Terry said. "So depending on the technician you get, they might have just graduated high school. That's the difference."
He said there is no training to help veterans psychologically deal with being wounded or for reintegration into society and ordinary life.
"[Veterans] are unable to accept the fact that we can't do it," he said. "Everything else you're told to suck up and press on."
Not all problems can be easily observed on the surface, but that doesn't mean help isn't needed, he said.
"People just assume that for you to need that type of help, you have to have physical signs," Terry said.