Valdosta Daily Times

November 2, 2012

Group helps military members suffering brain injuries

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — A group has moved its meeting location while maintaining its mission to help active-duty military personnel and veterans suffering from brain and spinal injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Veteran to Veteran, or V2V, had been meeting monthly on Moody Air Force Base, but organizers felt a new location was needed because active-duty Air Force personnel may have been concerned their involvement might affect their careers and clearance for other military personnel to enter the base often took as long as the meeting time, said Air Force Staff Sgt. David Fields, who operates V2V with Tony Langstaff.

Fields suffers from a condition that essentially attacks the brain’s cerebellum, affecting his balance and coordination.

With approximately a dozen years in the Air Force, Fields has served in Iraq. But his condition did not come from combat or trauma. It is a progressive neurological brain disorder inherited from his mother’s side of the family.

Fields says there is a stigma still attached to brain injuries and disorders in the military, one which makes it difficult for some personnel to admit their challenges.

V2V offers a place where active-duty military personnel and veterans can discuss their issues while learning from each other and scheduled speakers each month. The meetings are also open to

spouses and parents who may be seeking help for a military member who is reluctant to attend.

V2V is part of Brain Injury Advocate Services of Georgia, which is led by Alan Carter of Valdosta. BIAS works with all individuals who have suffered brain or spinal cord injuries and their families. BIAS has been holding support meetings for non-military personnel for the past few years.

Given the numbers of military personnel returning from combat situations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Carter saw a need to establish a support group dealing specifically with people who have suffered injuries in war or military personnel dealing with physical brain and spinal injuries or damage.

While Fields’ condition is not military-related, he has been in situations abroad and at home which he and other Moody BIAS participants can understand. With his uncertain gait and speech, Fields faces those who do not understand his situation.

This week, both Carter and Fields made a trip to Forsyth to demonstrate to Georgia State Patrol troopers how to handle a civilian or a veteran with a brain injury during a traffic stop. They have led a series of these seminars for troopers.

As for V2V, it meets 7 p.m., the first Tuesday of each month, Valdosta State University Family Counseling Center, 901 N. Patterson St. More information: Call (229) 671-4977; or email biasofga@bellsouth.net.