Four years ago, Marco Ferreira was riding his motorcycle down an isolated road in Los Angeles when he hit some grout and had an accident.
Though he was wearing a full helmet, leather pants and jacket, Ferreira suffered a traumatic brain injury.
When he woke from a six-week coma, his wife, Wendy Tucker, was there.
"You didn't walk, you didn't talk, and you couldn't feed yourself for seven months," she says during a visit with the 48-year-old Ferreira to StoryCorps in San Francisco. "Since then, it's just been getting better all the time."
The case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the U.S. soldier charged with killing 17 Afghan villagers, has led the Army to review how troops are screened for post-traumatic stress disorder. The Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs say they have invested heavily in the treatment of PTSD to deal with a growing caseload.
But the stigma associated with the disorder continues to complicate efforts to treat it. It has also fueled serious misconceptions about its effects — such as the notion that PTSD causes acts of extreme violence.
Nineteen-year-old Army Pvt. Cody Dollman has a look in his eyes that makes you think he probably used to fight much bigger kids on the playground back home in Wichita, Kan. He says he always wanted to be a soldier — both his grandfathers served in the military — but he's the first in his family to see action overseas.
One of the guests in the congressional gallery at last week's State of the Union address was Roxana Delgado, an advocate for soldiers returning home with traumatic brain injuries. Her husband, an army sergeant who NPR profiled in June, 2010, had been dramatically affected by the concussion he received from a roadside blast in Iraq.
The Defense Department has spent close to $3 billion since 2007 to treat and study traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder — the leading injuries suffered by U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. But a federal investigation finds that the department's programs are so disorganized that it's difficult to figure out how the money has been spent.