NCO who cares about soldiers screened for traumatic brain injury

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Army leaders directed a non-commissioned officer to medical screening for a traumatic brain injury after he advocated for soldiers and displayed compassion to fellow human beings, sources confirmed today.All Posts

Colleagues grew concerned last month when they witnessed Sgt. Andrew Hawthorne having rational conversations at a reasonable volume with lower-ranking service members on multiple occasions, according to his platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Greg Bolster.

"I knew for sure something was wrong when he asked [the personnel officer] about a pay issue for one of his soldiers," said Bolster. "I have never even heard of soldiers getting paid on time, so this was big indicator for me."

After weeks of seeming aloof and dedicated to the development of his squad members, Hawthorne was referred to Womack Army Medical Center. His rate of deterioration shocked doctors who had never seen a case of TBI that advanced.

"Traumatic brain injuries get better over time, so it is a little frightening to think about how effective Hawthorne had been immediately after his injury," said head of neurology Dr. Laura Penwarden. "I am just glad we caught this before he offered advice on how to manage finances."

While these types of wounds can manifest themselves in many ways, it is not surprising to observe behavior this out of character for an NCO, according to Penwarden. Perhaps most concerning, however, is Hawthorne's repression of the incident that left him so scarred.

"Hawthorne denies ever having been hit by an IED or any other direct blunt force trauma to the head, but that is just his brain's way of coping with the emotional scars and social stigma of asking for help," said Penwarden.

Penwarden implored other service members to help their battle buddies by looking for other signs of TBI including releasing subordinates at a reasonable hour, submitting high performers for awards, and using words in the correct context.

"As long as we are vigilant and can recognize the signs, we can make sure soldiers get the help they deserve," Penwarden added.

While it is a long road for recovery, Hawthorne said he isn't letting his disability stand in the way of a successful Army career.

"I honestly don't know what everyone is talking about," Hawthorne told reporters while strapped to a gurney for his own safety. "Can someone please tell me what is going on?"

Surgeons are optimistic about Hawthorne's long-term prognosis and are confident that a trans-orbital lobotomy will make him an outstanding NCO once again.