WTVC NewsChannel 9 :: News - Top Stories - Wounded Warrior to Be Honored at College Football Game on Saturday
Thursday, September 4 2014, 09:58 AM EDT
Wounded Warrior to Be Honored at College Football Game on Saturday
This Saturday, Northwestern University will honor a wounded warrior from Ringgold during its football game against Northern Illinois University.

Sgt. Smith was injured in Afghanistan on July 25, 2012 while on patrol, when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. His injuries led to the amputation of his legs, one above the knee and one below the knee. Sgt. Smith also suffered severe damage to his right arm and hand, moderate damage to his left arm and hand, severe hearing loss and moderate Post-traumatic stress disorder.

Chattanooga non-profit Steps 2 Hope befriended Sgt. Smith after he was injured. The organization linked the wounded war veteran with Northwestern University, which has a long history of supporting men and women of the United States military.

'Each year the football program dedicates one game to honor our heroes, and we are pleased to see them honor one of our very own from Ringgold,' said Mark Wilson, Executive Director, Steps 2 Hope.

Steps 2 Hope is meeting Jason during his recovery process and working to meet his specific needs as they have for others in the past by providing wheelchairs, modifications to homes and accessible vehicles.

To volunteer or donate go to Steps2Hope.com and click on aVolunteer or Donate to Jasonas New Journeya.

Sergeant Smith included his own personal account of his road to recovery in a Steps 2 Hope news release:

"On July 25th, 2012, I realized that my entire life would always be connected to this countryas great military history.

I was born May 19th, 1985 in Oakland California.  I was blessed to be the offspring of two wonderful parents, who both were active-duty members of the United States Army.  Shortly after my birth my father was re-assigned to Sacramento California and then Missoula Montana where he became an active-duty Army reservist.  I finally became somewhat settled in 1994 when my father received orders to report to Chattanooga Tennessee.  We found a small farm in Ringgold Georgia and that is where I grew up for the next ten years.  I graduated from Ringgold High School in 2004 and decided that I wanted to continue my connection with the military and joined the United States Army in 2009.  Although I loved the Eastern Tennessee/Northwest Georgia area and consider it home, I knew it was time for me to step up and serve my country.

As with every soldier, basic training was a rude awakening.  I reported to Fort Benning Georgia for Boot camp and Infantry training over 16 weeks.  After a grueling 16 weeks, I graduated in June of 2009 and was immediately sent to my first overseas duty station at Camp Casey in South Korea.  This duty was incredible.  Not only did I receive the needed training to continue my career in the military, South Korea was beautiful.  I spent the entire year in South Korea training and exploring what that country offered with its rich history and culture.  My next tour of duty was in Fort Lewis Washington.  I was immediately assigned to the 1st/23rd Infantry division, Striker Brigade Combat Team (Tomahawks).  Over the next two years I trained with my fellow brothers, some of the same guys who would be with me on the day that changed my life forever.

In March of 2012 I was deployed to Afghanistan with my unit and earned the title 2nd Platoon, 3rd Squad, Alpha team leader.  I was also given the lead Vallon Operator.  As lead, I would head-up all search efforts for any Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) that can only be detected with our specialized Vallon metal detectors.  We were scheduled for an eight month deployment in the Southern Province and shortly after the start of our deployment my unit was ordered to start a rotation at a small base known simply as TI-One.  On July 25th 2012, the day was fairly typical.  We were up early and as always with our mission, we were training local Afghanistan Army members on the proper use of our Vallon system.  1st and 3nd Squads were ordered to investigate a possible IED producer who was setting them just outside our base.  At my usual post as Team Leader, I lead my team to the spot where he was burying the IEDas and we had definite signs that this coward had accidently blown himself up placing the IEDas.  Upon further investigation by my squad it appeared he may have survived and made it over a nearby wall.  After we confirmed that he was not there, we all came back over the wall and began to conduct a Battle Damage Assessment (BDA), trying to find any DNA of this Taliban member.  I pushed all of my Squad back except for one; his job was to provide security while I searched the area.  I was able to identify one spot where it appeared he had attempted to plant one IED, so I began to sweep and my detector showed that area was clear; but the area was not clear.  Fifteen pounds of IED explosives detonated directly underneath me with so much force that I literally was thrown into a complete back-flip.

As my eyes opened and with all of the confusion, I truly had no idea who got hit.  I immediately noticed my fellow soldier who was providing security, lying on the ground.  Because he was lying on the ground, I assumed he was injured and I then attempted to get to him to help with his medical needs.  It was then I realized who was injured.  Almost simultaneously, both my Squad Leader and Saw Gunner got to me and quickly applied tourniquets to both of my legs.  I was quickly removed from the scene via helicopter to Kandahar Air Force Base and placed into a medically induced coma and transferred to Germany.  I remained in Germany for six days until I stabilized and then transferred to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio Texas.  My injuries include amputations of both legs, one above the knee and one below; severe damage to my right arm and hand; moderate damage to my left arm and hand; severe hearing loss and moderate Post Traumatic Stress disorder.

This is where the hard work began.  I arrived in August of 2012 and with a great support system of the entire Fort Sam Houston medical team, I was able to leave in February of 2014.  I can never say enough about the medical staff, friends and the entire San Antonio community for everything they did for me.  My fellow injured soldiers that I met will always be life-long friends who were key to my recovery.

On February 27th 2014 I retired from the United States Army.  After spending all that time in the military, visiting all of the wonderful places the Army allowed me to visit, there was only one place I wanted to go; and that was home.  I currently reside in Chattanooga and love the area, but I will soon be looking for permanent housing and housing that will best suit my injuries, close to Chattanooga.

The last two years have been hard and very strenuous, but I decided a year ago while rehabbing at Fort Sam Houston, these injuries were not going to dictate my life.  After all of the great care I received through the military my rehab did not end when I left the army.  As soon as I got home, I abandoned my wheel chair and made sure that everywhere I went was on my new legs.  My body is now my temple and I prove that every day with a strong physical fitness routine.  I overcame the hardest obstacle I will ever face and that gave me a new outlook on life:  It could always be worse.

Everything happens for a reason.  In December of 2013 I met the love of my life, Lauren Wallace.  If I had not been injured I donat think I would have ever met her.  We are now expecting a baby in November of this year.  I love my life and my country and I honestly could not imagine it any differently.

So where can you watch the game where Sgt. Smith will be honored? NewsChannel9 has done some digging and it appears you will be able to watch the game online here. HOWEVER: the link to the specific Northwestern vs. Northern Illinois game is a 'bad link.' We presume that won't be the case as we get closer to game day.Wounded Warrior to Be Honored at College Football Game on Saturday

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