Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy spoke to more than 100 guests at the Brigantine Lions Club Monday night about what he considers the under-addressed issue of brain injuries among American troops.

“I had to come tonight, because as someone who left public office two years ago, I’ve kind of been going through withdrawal of public speaking,” he said. “I’m kind of a recovering politician. The idea that people would listen to me tonight is something that I can’t pass up.”

Kennedy told the group that if a soldier was captured by al-Qaeda or the Taliban, there would be no question that the United States would send troops to rescue them. He said that the same is not true of victims of brain injuries.

“We, as American’s, don’t leave any of our men or women behind,” he said. “We don’t leave them prisoner of war. Yet, in this conflict, we are leaving many of our nation's heroes prisoners of war. And what I mean by that is that they’re prisoners of their war injuries. They’re held hostage by the disability that they incurred serving all of us. And they are behind the enemy lines in our midst, of shame and stigma.”

Kennedy attended with his wife, Amy Kennedy, a sixth-grade teacher at the Northfield Community School, her daughter from a previous marriage, Harper, and their son, Owen, who was born in April.

They have been living in Brigantine for about a year, currently renting a house on 38th Street. Kennedy called the townspeople “so welcoming.”

“In the summertime, if you like doing early morning calisthenics you can do it at the beach right next to where I live,” he said. “And my brother-in-law is the lieutenant on the Beach Patrol, so if you want to know if I’m connected here in Brigantine...I am connected, too.”

Club president Steve Satz presented Kennedy with a plaque and commended him for his efforts in the area of brain injuries.

A delay in the the meeting allowed guests a chance to speak with Kennedy before his presentation.

Lill Hassman, who owns a home in Brigantine, is a member of a social workers group, which holds a conference in Atlantic City every summer.

“I asked him if he would be a keynote speaker, and he was very excited about it. He said it all depends on the date,” Hassman said. “He was very open to it, which sort of shocked me. I found that he was very approachable.”

She said she was thrilled that Kennedy lives in the area.

“It’s so exciting,” she said. “Brigantine has always been a little sleepy town. So he brings a bit of notoriety which is exciting.”

Contact David Simpson:

609-272-7204