Throughout his 10 years of service, decorated Navy SEAL operator, Ryan Larkin, was regularly exposed to high-impact blast waves. The high-impact of the blasts he experienced in four combat tours had severe psychological effects and caused an undiagnosed brain injury. Repeated exposure to the blasts severely damaged his brain by causing microscopic tears in the tissue, internal lining and blood vessels. On a Sunday morning in 2017, Larkin committed suicide while dressed in a SEAL Team suit with his medals he earned in service next to him. His father, Frank Larkin, said “Ryan died from combat injuries, just not right away.” Examined at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, doctors discovered that Ryan had a severe level of microscopic brain injury that was uniquely related to blast exposure.
As a result of the Iranian ballistic missiles attack at Iraqi air bases in January, sixty-four U.S. service members have been diagnosed with TBI. Dismissing the concussion injuries as “headaches,” President Donald Trump commented that the injuries were “not very serious” relative to other injuries he’s seen. Veteran advocates have criticized these comments, including Ryan’s father, Frank Larkin, a former Navy SEAL and retired Senate Sergeant of Arms. Frank Larkin wrote a letter to the president about Ryan’s “invisible wounds” that he “sustained from the concussive effects of high-powered weapons during his time as a sniper and explosives breacher. Asking the president to “heighten the sense of urgency around the need for scientific research in TBI,” Larkin says, “there’s a lot people that do not understand what this means and the impact it’s having on our society.” According to the CDC, it is estimated that 1.5 million people in the U.S. each year sustain a TBI, ranging from mild concussions to severe disabilities that result in death.
To advocate for more research and educate the public in hope that one day the disease can be diagnosed before death is Frank Larkin’s mission. It is his hope that more appropriate therapies will offer TBI patients the opportunity to identify the biological connection to mental health issues and the chance to improve their brain health.
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To read Frank Larkin’s Letter to POTUS, click below: