Michael Gier has spent his entire life in entertainment, first in front of the camera and now behind it. When preparing to produce a scripted film about returning military members, he started interviewing wounded veterans -- and it turned his world upside down.
The result is a three-year journey of discovery to find out how veterans were impacted by wartime service and what they could do about it when they returned home. He compiled these interviews and solutions into a new feature-length documentary film, "Wounded Heroes," streaming now on Amazon Prime and elsewhere.
It started in one of America's largest military communities.
"I met a veteran in San Diego who [was] in his late 20s; he was a medic in really bad shape," Gier told Military.com. "At the time, he was on 16 different prescription drugs. It was shocking to me that someone could be on that many drugs."
The sailor Gier met in San Diego was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the Global War on Terrorism. He told Gier that despite taking so many medications, they weren't helping his PTSD.
After the sailor tried to kill himself, Gier thought there has to be a better treatment out there than handfuls of pills. Many vets told him the same thing: Pills are a Band-Aid.
"I just got a consistent story from these veterans," he said. "Each of them found something that allowed them to get off the drugs or lower them dramatically and get their lives back."
Gier put the feature film he was making on a backburner to concentrate on finding solutions for veterans like the sailor he met in San Diego.
"It was more important to do the documentary film, because I thought I could save more lives," he said. "The other film has a message of post-traumatic stress in there, but it's a theatrical film meant for entertainment. The documentary is meant to save lives, so it was more important for me to cover that."
He spent three years looking for promising non-drug programs or treatments and interviewing doctors and veterans across the United States. He found doctors and vets who developed their own treatment programs.
When he found real successes, he added them to the film.
"The film is different individual segments, with each segment featuring a different program or treatment that helps," he said. "We did the research on it to make sure the medical information was good. When veterans saw tremendous success from it, it got its own segment in the film."
"Wounded Heroes" not only covers potential treatments and programs for PTSD that "take off the Band-Aid" and address its causes, it also talks about the medications commonly prescribed by doctors to treat it.
Gier isn't advocating going off medication entirely, but he discusses the potential side effects and when to talk to a doctor about them.
"I'm an entertainer. I live my life; it's a good life," he said. "But it amazed me to discover how many people were living with chronic stress, and it broke my heart to find out. I've always respected and honored our military. It was exciting for me to get to do this, to give back and serve them as a thank you for what they did for us."
Although many of those featured are military veterans, Gier said the film is for anyone who suffers from PTSD, including police, firefighters, EMTs, other first responders and anyone who has experienced a traumatic event.
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