By: Sari Soffer
From the Menominee High School to UW-La Crosse football fields, Jason Church followed the game before following his dream.
“I wanted to be a soldier like my dad,” says Church, now a retired captain.
After college, Jason became one of many Church men to join the United States Army.
In 2012, he was deployed to one of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan.
“You’re going to see a lot of things that you sometimes wish you would un-see,” says Church. “But it also taught me the resilience of the American service member.”
That became important when, just halfway through Church’s deployment, a bomb exploded beneath his feet.
“The ability to adapt, the ability to push on,” recalls Church.
When he found out he’d receive a Purple Heart on Veterans Day 2012, he pushed through surgeries and prosthetic leg fittings to be able to stand on two feet, on his old football field, and accept the honor from his father.
“It was like sadness, happiness, a surreal moment,” says Church. “It’s a hard one to describe, to be honest with you.”
Almost four years later, Church brings his message of resilience and positivity to Berlin high schoolers.
Church says, “If you always have that control of your attitude, if you make it a positive attitude, it’ll drive you through those obstacles.
A junior, Ethan Becker, watches the presentation and says, “It just inspires me to do more with my life that I’ve been given, to live in such a country like the United States.”
The students have just finished reading “Kite Runner,” a book about a boy growing up in Afghanistan. Jason’s presentation provides another part of Afghanistan’s history, which their teacher says is important to understanding the full story.
“It affects our daily life, it’s in the news constantly,” says Gary Knoke, a Berlin social studies teacher:
Another junior at the presentation, Janae Jimenez, says, “The way he put it, he’s like: there are a lot of issues there, but there’s also a lot of solutions that we can do and we can help it.”
While also in law school, Church is now the Veteran Outreach Coordinator for Senator Ron Johnson. He inspires students to do what they love and make a difference.