I was an advisor to the Iraqi Army,
and we were attached to a Marine battalion landing team--
1st Battalion, 3rd Marines--and we were making the assault in Fallujah
in November of 2004.
I got blown up by a rocket-propelled grenade--
shrapnel in my back and my shoulder
and ultimately I learned I had traumatic brain injury,
although at the time I had no idea what it was and I didn't get treated for it.
I now believe that I actually had several concussions while I was in Iraq.
I was exposed to several blasts,
and looking back I now know that I had symptoms of traumatic brain injury
that I didn't think anything of.
I had headaches, light sensitivity, vomiting, that kind of thing,
but I thought that was just part of the deal.
I was in denial.
I had a career in the Marine Corps, and I was trying to hide it.
I was trying to--
I figured it would just go away, and if I could just fake it until I made it,
I didn't want to give up my career.
I had just couldn't remember things.
We would go places and do things that I had absolutely no memory of.
It was very, very disorienting, very bizarre.
Big things, like we went on trips.
We went on a trip to Florida. I have no memory of it.
I got married. I have no memory of getting married.
So I had very serious indications that my brain was not right.
Show transcript | Print transcript
Former Marine Mike Zacchea does not remember his wedding. Or a trip to Florida. For a long time, he didn't realize he had sustained several debilitating blast-related concussions as well as PTSD.
Watch "Mike Zacchea on His Severe PTSD and TBI"
Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough, Justin Rhodes, and Lara Collins, BrainLine.
Special thanks to LtCol. Tim Maxwell, USMC (ret), and his wife, Shannon.