Josh Decker is an American soldier from Osage, Iowa who joined the ranks of the hundredsÂ¾perhaps even thousands and moreÂ¾of U.S. Military personnel who have suffered from blast-induced traumatic brain injuries during tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Decker suffered, like many of his fellow soldiers, from a brain injury and the long-term effects that come with it after he survived a blast from running over a road mine with his truck in Iraq.
The Department of Defense (DOD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) reports that up to 20% of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered from some form of traumatic brain injury.
Although Decker told the Mitchell County Press that his current status with the military is inactive, he was recently notified that he was put on a list of potential candidates for deployment to Afghanistan with the Iowa National Guard. Decker said that he thought the deployment order may have been a mistake made with documents created prior to the update of his status to inactive.
The Mitchell County Press article reported that Decker’s father has been driving him to up to 4 doctors appointments per month for treatment and care for the soldier’s brain injury. While the deployment order may be mistaken, Decker will have to comply with it or face the consequences, unless his superiors discover they have made a mistake, or Decker proves he is unfit to serve in combat.
Earlier articles published on brainandspinalcord.org have reported on the suggestion that soldiers be removed from combat duty until fully recovered after suffering a traumatic brain injury, and that the soldiers be removed from combat forever after suffering 3 or more blast-induced or other brain injuries.
To attempt to fight and halt his potential deployment while suffering from a brain injury, Josh Decker must demonstrate in medical tests that he is 70% disabled in order to be classified by the military as non-deployable.
Decker’s parents told the Mitchell County Press that while their son seems completely normal at times and can still drive a car, he has had trouble remembering how to do simple tasks. They also said that he has temper flare ups and post traumatic stress disorder symptoms from his time in Iraq, which was made worse by an unfortunate house fire at his parents’ farm on the day Decker was released from the hospital following treatment for his brain injury.
The family hopes they can stop what they see as the senseless and dangerous deployment of their son into a combat while his brain may not be ready to handle it. The situation they face is one of many that are likely to be addressed directly by the military as it devotes record amounts of funding and attention to studying traumatic brain injuries in soldiers, football players, boxers, and car accident victims, etc. As they strive to develop better solutions for soldiers, civilians benefit from the research as well.