Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg provided the most dramatic moment at Tuesday's State of the Union address, receiving nearly two minutes of applause after being recognized by the president for his service and sacrifice.
On his 10th deployment in Afghanistan in 2009, Remsburg was leading a Ranger squad into combat when a massive roadside bomb detonated. He was found face down in a canal, suffering shrapnel in his brain. The blast also cost him the use of his left arm and the sight in his right eye.
For months, the Arizona native lay in a coma as a team of clinicians, therapists and family members helped bring him to consciousness. When he emerged, he couldn't speak or barely move. Since the bombing, he's had to endure dozens of surgeries and hours of grueling rehab.
Medical science has produced great advances in treating wounded soldiers. Until recent years, there were no proven treatments to help patients in a coma or a vegetative state regain consciousness.
Now, centers in Tampa, Minneapolis, Richmond, Va. and Palo Alto, Calif. have had a nearly 70 percent success rate in seeing once-comatose patients return to consciousness. Of the 97 troops or veterans admitted to these Emerging Consciousness program centers between 2007 and 2009, 67 have awakened, according to the VA.
Relatives play a vital role, assisting with moving their loved ones out of bed, or massaging and stretching limbs. The VA usually gives these patients up to 90 days to emerge from a vegetative state and those who do not are usually placed in outside nursing homes.
The VA spent $34 million in emerging-consciousness treatment for 104 patients since 2007, but the benefits to society go far beyond the dollar amounts.
The budget agreement passed by congress in December impacted military retiree benefits but thankfully, not the disability-compensation benefits and VA-provided medical care. Those currently serving and who have served don't need another financial burden or to have the promises broken that were made to them when they volunteered.
By Jim Zbick