Soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq are surviving brutal attacks from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), some without as much as a scratch. But the overpressure created in an explosion is producing adverse effects on Soldiers' brains. A 2008 Department of Defense study revealed that more than 20% of combat Veterans may have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while deployed. TBI can effect several areas of brain function, including cognitive impairment and behavioral distress. Because of the stigma attached to mental health in the military and the acute nature of diagnosis, particularly in a combat environment, 57% of Veterans with a suspected TBI avoid treatment. Beyond a difficult screening process, evidence-based treatments for combat TBI are limited. In the Vietnam War, injuries resulting in a TBI had a fatality rate of over 75%. In Afghanistan and Iraq the fatality rate is less than 25%. A consequence of modern combat's high rate of survival is that our nation is now tasked with the care of thousands of Veterans with a complex and often invisible injury.
Along Recovery is an intimate portrait of the signature wound of Afghanistan and Iraq. The film documents the TBI recovery process from the perspective of three Soldiers recently evacuated from combat operations. With unprecedented access inside military treatment facilities, Along Recovery examines the exhaustive regimen of therapy each Soldier must endure. Currently, the film is being shot alongside the Soldiers as they receive treatment at the Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Following months of treatment, the story continues as each Soldier undergoes an extensive medical evaluation that will determine their future--a return to the ranks or reintegration into civilian life. Preview the film.
Justin Springer studied film at Tulane University before joining the Army in 2003. He served two tours in Iraq with the Army's First Infantry Division. Along Recovery was born from his experiences serving alongside dozens of Soldiers struggling with traumatic brain injuries. Justin separated from the Army in 2008 and is currently working as a producer for Arrowhead Films in Austin, Texas. Contact the filmmaker.