FALLS CHURCH, Va.- Sgt. Chris Long always loved to fish. He had fly fishing as an eventual bucket list thing he wanted to try- “someday.” Little did he know that bucket list wish would help get him on the road to recovery after an accident. “It was phenomenal. I am a decent fisherman, but I have never been fly-fishing. It was a goal for me, and I am grateful I got to do it in the Ft Drum SRU.”
On Halloween night 2022, Sgt. Chris Long was in a car accident in Watertown, New York. He was in a high-performance car, and he says he had no experience driving. “I was unaware the car hydroplaned like paper on water. My new Corvette slid into a tree. It physically -destroyed my body.”
Long was airlifted to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse in critical condition. “My head injury was so severe that they cut my skull in half to keep my brain from swelling.,” said the Blackhawk helicopter maintainer.
He says, thankfully, he was wearing his seatbelt. There were many injuries, and so were the surgeries.
“Besides my head injury, my left collarbone and shoulder were destroyed. My neck was significantly fractured, as well as my lower spine.”
Just over four months later, Long was assigned to the Fort Drum Soldier Recovery Unit, a place he says he had no idea existed, and he worked at Fort Drum as an active-duty Soldier.
“The SRU is what I classify as the most important thing that has happened to me. My Army career was going great, and I was destroyed in every way in the flash of light. The SRU and everything that they do here has helped me so much. They’ve helped me become a big, phenomenal man again. I’ve come a long way,” said Long.
Besides his physical wounds, Long is grateful for the staff's work on his unseen wound. “It’s my memory. That’s truly the hardest part for me. I had to learn how to use my left shoulder again. I was in physical and speech therapy as well.”
Adaptive Reconditioning at the Fort Drum SRU showed Sgt. Long things like fly fishing can be adjusted to work for each person. It worked to help heal both his visible and invisible wounds.
“They went through every aspect of every deficiency I had and showed me how to do it differently. Who knew I could fly fish like this.”
Not only was he good at it, but it was also good for him.
“Fly fishing helped me in my recovery journey because it worked on my memory. It’s a step process. They taught me every aspect of the process, and it was repetition. Things started clicking, and I loved it. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to be able to make this progress.”
Every day is a victory in Long’s world because he knows he has the best team of support to help him get there. “I truly am grateful to every staff member here in the SRU. If I’m not feeling good, I talk to my Nurse Case Manager, and she goes above and beyond to make sure my well-being and my progress are the best that they can be. The Army, in general, is so supportive.”
He lauds the support to help him continue as he is a return to duty Soldier now. “The way the SRU has helped me progress led me here, and they are helping me find the right career path, and I so appreciate that. I want to continue being a helicopter maintainer and am now pushing to do that. I love what I do. The cadre here is truly trying to help me. They’re going through every option for me as far as work.”
Long is approaching his seventh year in the Army. He says that, like many who end up in an SRU, he never saw it coming but leaves this positive note to encourage others to embrace the SRU. “With humility, know they care about your well-being and performance.”