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Veterans Hope Study Reveals What Blast Injuries Do To ‘Your Brain, Your Body, And Everything Else’

Army veteran Chris Riga rearranges sticky notes on his desk which he uses to organize and to assist him in remembering tasks he has to do throughout the day at his job as patient experience coordinator at the Northampton VA Medical Center in Leeds, MA. Photo by Jesse Costa for WBUR

Army veteran Chris Riga rearranges sticky notes on his desk which he uses to organize and to assist him in remembering tasks he has to do throughout the day at his job as patient experience coordinator at the Northampton VA Medical Center in Leeds, MA. Photo by Jesse Costa for WBUR

Shortly after he’d been exposed to not one — but several — improvised explosive devices (IEDs), Chris Riga realized something wasn’t right.

“The first time I noticed, we had been through multiple IED strikes within a week period years ago in Afghanistan. And, unfortunately, I was at a memorial ceremony, and I couldn’t keep my balance after standing up for about two minutes,” Riga says. “I’d have to grab onto something or lean against something to be able to stand for that amount of time.”

Riga served several tours in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014, eventually commanding all U.S. special forces there. During his 29 years in the Army’s 82nd Airborne, Rangers and 3rd and 7th Special Forces groups, he also served in Africa and Iraq.

“We were always either preparing for combat or deployed in combat,” Riga says. “Blasts and exposures were a daily incident. So I’ve always been interested in what effect that has on your brain, your body, and everything else.”

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