By the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center
When he was 23, former Army Staff Sgt. Randy Gross was riding in a Jeep with his friends. The top was down, and his seat belt was off.
“We weren’t going very fast, so I wasn’t that concerned about it,” Gross said.
But then, the unexpected happened.
“We hit this bump, and I hit the windshield. Putting that seatbelt on would’ve kept me from running into the windshield,” he said.
Gross flew from the back seat and knocked his head on the windshield of the vehicle, suffering a traumatic brain injury. This was not his first brain injury. Throughout his life, Gross has been diagnosed with multiple TBIs from sports- and training-related events. His experience is familiar to many of those in the military community: the vast majority of military TBIs are diagnosed in non-deployed settings, and motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of the injury.
Gross made a full recovery and continued serving in the Army until 2006. After his accident, he vowed to always wear his seat belt and take other precautions to avoid TBI. Now, he urges others in the military community to do the same through his work at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.
Gross became a DVBIC regional education coordinator in 2010. In his role, he connects with service members, veterans and their families who are coping with TBI, using his own experiences to relate to his patients and show them that recovery is possible. Gross regularly shares free DVBIC resources with them, such as the Healthy Sleep fact sheet and a booklet with tips for talking with children about TBI.
“One of the single most important things that I recommend to the TBI patients [who] I meet with is that this is the new you. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to be completely different for the rest of your life; it just means that you’re going to have to do things a little bit differently,” Gross said. “[TBI] doesn’t change who we are; it just changes a little bit of our behaviors that we have to work with, that we have to cope with, on a daily basis sometimes.”
To learn more about the TBI support available to service members and veterans, you can access DVBIC resources online. You can also meet with a regional education coordinator like Gross at regional DVBIC locations across the country and in Landstuhl, Germany. DVBIC offers a complete list of DVBIC regional sites on the DVBIC website.
Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.