Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Jon Meadows has served two tours of duty, first to Iraq in 2006, then to Afghanistan in 2012.
Over the course of his service, he suffered multiple head injuries–which he didn’t report because he wanted to keep on serving.
Then, in an examination during his last tour, doctors found polyps in Jon’s throat. He was sent to a hospital in the States–and that’s when the brain damage was discovered.
Jon and his wife, Melissa, came to the White House for a day StoryCorps spent recording with Joining Forces–the national effort to support service members and their families, which is spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden.
In Washington, Jon told his wife about his life now, and remembered a friend and fallen soldier who served with him in Iraq.
Click here for the transcript.
Melissa Meadows (MM): We got the notice you were going to Iraq. Do you Remember that?
JM: Yeah. I was very excited. But …
MM: It wasn't such a great adventure. Was it?
JM: No it wasn't.
MM: You got hurt when you were in Afghanistan this last time. What happened on that incident?
JM: We were supporting a special forces unit. We drove right over the IED. And, uh, my driver floored it, and my body slammed so hard against the top of the vehicle, it felt like I had a knife stuck in, like, the middle of my brain.
MM: I could tell on the phone something was different with you. And then you came home. We slowly discovered that you had a significant brain injury. Dr. Webber had described you as an advanced Alzheimer’s patient. You couldn't have a conversation. You couldn't follow one-step instructions. You were almost catatonic at times.
JM: That's got to bother you, don't it?
MM: Sometimes it does. It does.
JM: Do you think you would ever want to give up?
MM: No. Absolutely not. Your mission is to get better.
JM: And that's what I'm trying to do, and it's so hard to say, “I need help.” I can't soldier it up anymore. I have to be somebody that wants to be healed. And, now we're working with my PTSD, which is a different thing. The only way to treat that is I have to talk about it too.
JM: I remember we were going on a mission, and my good friend—Staff Sergeant William Beardsley—he took my place. He decided that he wanted to go on the mission, so I'm like, “Okay, yeah, go ahead.” And um, he went, and got killed. That was the hardest moment in my life. And, I was ashamed because, I was glad it wasn’t me. Then I had the guilt, like, if I went on the mission, it wouldn’t have been him. I had a picture of him, and I had it everywhere I went. And now I put him on the uh, on my bookshelf. There’s my buddy. Who got killed. I can never get over that.