We don’t understand it. But, so many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans get it: traumatic brain injury. LTC Rivas got it and apparently died from it. We get it stateside, too, but TBI has become a singular feature of the current war. The IED’s (improvised explosive devices or "roadside bombs") are unique to this war. When they detonate under an armored HMMV, the blast reverberates inside the thick walls. The concusion stays with you. When I was in Iraq, a couple of my buddies survived a couple of IED’s. They simply drove through the explosions. But, the ringing in the ears, they said, stayed with them for months afterward.
LTC Rivas appeared in the news and at a forum or two on TBI. He had served in Civil Affairs units, as I did for a time. He was trying to put his life back together.
Many, many IED’s result in no deaths. But, how many result in TBI? The Army is researching that question. I think the answer is far in the future. TBI itself is very hard to diagnose. Early studies indicate that TBI develops over time after the traumatic event. In the meantime, good soldiers like Ray Rivas suffer due to our lack of knowledge.