Brain Injury Services Raises Awareness

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Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia on Tuesday will host an awareness benefit to fete the first group of veterans who completed a new program and to hear from the director of the Virginia War Memorial Foundation.

Admiral John G. Heckman is the guest speaker for the reception that will be held at the Shenandoah Club from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Heckman retired from a 34-year career with the U.S. Navy in 1995. He’s a veteran of the Cuban Missile Crises and the Vietnam War, and his major commands include the Navy Information Systems Management in Arlington, the Defense Supply Center in Richmond and the Navy Supply Center in Charleston, South Carolina.

The event will also feature the first graduates of the Community Living Connection for Veterans program. Project director Stacey Nichols said nine veterans with traumatic brain injuries met online twice a week over 10 weeks to learn how to live with brain injuries and learn skills to increase memory and attention span and strategies to improve day-to-day living. Speakers from the Veterans Administration, the Virginia Veterans and Family Services and Wounded Warriors also spoke with them about services and benefits.

The veterans then set goals and were cheered on by their classmates in planning and reaching the goals, which is often difficult for those with brain injuries to accomplish, Nichols said.

The social support was amazing, she said.

“They came in and were meeting together for the first time,” she said. “In a couple of weeks the bonds that formed were incredible. They didn’t want it to end.”

Veterans in the first class ranged from Vietnam to Gulf War eras. The incoming class is mostly veterans from the Iraqi and Enduring Freedom operations who sustained brain injuries from IEDs.

One slot remains for the class that begins in April. Nichols encouraged interested veterans to apply as they will be on the wait list for a session scheduled to begin in September.

This story originally appeared in The Roanoke Times on March 18, 2016.

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