September 1, 2014
Gift, Vision Inspire Effort to Improve Veterans' Brain Health
Sept. 20, 2013
Pictured with Lyda Hill are Warrior Training Team members and veterans (from left) Mike Rials, Jake Fuller and Jake Schick.
After a conversation with her nephew, an Air Force F-16 pilot and Iraq war veteran, Lyda Hill set her sights on finding the answer to the question, “What are we doing to help military men and women thrive after their time of duty?”
She realized too little was being done – and too late.
Now, Hill is focused on easing the transition to civilian life for service members. Her $2 million gift, as well as her community leadership and vision, have ignited the creation of mobile Warrior Training Teams. The teams will deliver scientifically proven programs developed at the Center for BrainHealth to a wider audience. Although many efforts are dedicated to repairing the physical wounds of war, very few address the invisible injuries of the mind with meaningful, long-term life change. “The lack of attention to brain health is creating a preventable barrier to attaining future financial, social and emotional success,” said Hill. “Brain health is like physical health. You can actively pursue it. It’s up to you.”
The UT Dallas Brain Performance Institute Warrior Training Teams are designed to provide veteran and active-duty service members with the tools to achieve successful lives by optimizing brain performance, building resilience in cognitive function and reversing losses in cognitive capacity. “It’s a way to help bridge the gap from deployment to employment,” Hill explained.
“Lyda’s gift has been truly transformative for the Brain Performance Institute and has allowed us to immediately begin realizing our vision to provide high performance brain training to a larger group of warriors around the country,” said executive director of BPI, Eric Bennett. “By capitalizing on the valuable leadership, decision-making, strategic thinking and problem-solving skills learned in the military, we will help warriors reach their brain potential and civilian life success.”
With Hill’s donation, a Warrior Training Team has already been dispatched to assess a group of 38 select special operation forces before their deployment. Upon their return, these elite service members will complete Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART), which research shows spurs brain change after just hours of training.
The team also works with UT Dallas veteran students, with three training sessions planned this fall.
“I am honored to be a part of the Warrior Training Team and to deliver a proven program – that profoundly affected my life – to my brothers and sisters in uniform,” said Jake Fuller, former Navy SEAL and inaugural Warrior Training Team member. “When I came back from deployment in November 2012, my stress level never dropped. I was subconsciously trying to keep my stress level at what I had become accustomed to in Afghanistan. SMART gave me the ability to move forward in the civilian world because I now know I am the driver of my most important tool for life success, my brain. To be able to give that opportunity to other service members is a privilege.”
When reflecting on those served by her gift, Hill said, “I am in awe of their willingness to protect our country for those they don’t even know. I want to thank each of them and let them know that the private sector is here to help. My greatest hope is that all of our military can be reintegrated into civilian society and enjoy the life that they have defended for their families.”