Wounded soldier Church returns home to Menomonie

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MENOMONIE, WIS. (WEAU) -- "It's something that when you come back to an area, everyone wants to know and everyone wants to see you," said Jason Church, who is visiting his home in Menomonie after being wounded while serving in Afghanistan.

And tonight, Church got to tell his story first-hand to some people in his life who know him best: the congregation he worshiped with when he lived in Menomonie.

"In all honesty it's the most appropriate way to reach out when I came into the area," he said.

His parents at his side, Church shared the story of what happened to him in Afghanistan and the journey he has made since.

He says it is the personal connections he got to make again tonight that was the emotional part.

"Where people have been coming and talking to me personally, that's where it's a little more emotional for me," Church said.

His story inspired those who came out even teaching lessons about living life to the fullest.

"It's very touching to hear someone who got hurt in out in Afghanistan and come back, and be able to walk, it's amazing," said Bradley Kessler, who heard Church's speech.

It is a feeling shared by so many tonight, ovewhelmed and excited to see and hear from Church. And for him, the feeling is mutual.

"I've been overwhelmed by the support because you always see it with cards and hear it, but when you physically see it, that's when it hits you," Church added.


MENOMONIE, Wisc. (WEAU) - More than two months after a bomb exploded, taking off his legs, Jason Church is back home in Wisconsin.

The 23-year-old Army 2nd Lieutenant said he has a long way to go before he can walk and run regularly on his new prosthetics, but that through faith and support from family and friends has got him through these tough times.

Church said he knew his Aug. 23 mission in Afghanistan was a dangerous one, but thought the area was safe enough to travel through.

"There was about three signs that I saw that just raised red flags. This was a bad area." "In the process of knocking the mud wall over, I don't know if I stepped on the pressure plate, or one of my soldiers stepped on it ... it knocked me on my back, the white light thing occurred to me. I don't know how long I was on the ground. When I came to, I had realized that I had lost both legs below my knee."

With men rushing to help and a helicopter sending him to the operating table, Church said he soon realized his life would be forever changed.

"I've been telling myself that I'm going to push through this, it's just another hurdle in the walk of life. It's not something that should stop you from doing what you want to do and the dreams that you have."

The former Menomonie and U.W. La Crosse football player said the game gave him the right mindset to take on challenges in life at an early age.

"Teamwork, camaraderie; that's something I've used not only now, but throughout my military career through going through Ranger school, my time in Afghanistan. Football was the starting point of that."

In his two months of recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, he went through 21 surgeries, but got support from family, friends, comedian Jon Stewart and President Barack Obama.

"(The President) seemed very gracious that he was able to be in my presence. It says a lot about a person to be able to do that," Church said.

"In the end, there's really so many experiences, so many things that I've learned from this but the biggest thing I've learned and the most valuable thing I've learned is how much I value life itself."

Church said he expects to get full use of prosthetics in the next few months.

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