MENOMONIE, Wisc./BETHESDA, MD (WEAU) - For the first time since he was seriously injured serving the United States in Afghanistan, former Menomonie high school football standout Jason Church shared his story of recovery.
Church underwent his seventh surgery Wednesday morning. Doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland are keeping watch over the 23-year-old.
Meanwhile, special plans are underway for this Friday's Menomonie home football opener in his honor.
The current 2nd Lt. in the Army lost his legs below the knees from an explosion in Afghanistan two weeks ago.
"It's not gonna define me, it's just gonna be something that I've overcome," Church said.
"He's been very positive, the doctor's big concern initially was infection, and we've been able to fight that off and have no real issues there," Jason's father, Dave Church, said.
Just more than 1,000 miles away, at home in Menomonie, the high school football team is preparing a tribute to their former standout.
"A lot of these kids are very familiar with Jason, very close to the church family so it's something that's very dear to our hearts," head coach Joe La Buda said.
The church family said they're feeling the support.
"I read every message, every one of them matters to me and I thank the Menomonie community so much for the support they've been giving me at this time," Jason Church said.
Despite not having a clear time table for his release, Jason said what happened will not keep him from his dreams of coaching or getting his master's degree.
"I just view this as another obstacle and basically another sled to hit in practice. I just gotta move it day by day and I'm gonna push to the top of the hill and I'm gonna conquer this thing."
A fund has been set up for the Church family at Westconsin Credit Union, to donate to the fund you can contact them at (800) 924-0022
There's also a benefit dinner scheduled at UW La Crosse in Jan. 26.
Here is the full transcript from WEAU's interview with Jason Church from Sept. 5.
On his health:
“I'm doing fine, considering the fact that I lost my legs below my knees, I'm doing well." "It’s been tiring, I've been in and out of surgery quite a bit, but the support I've been getting from family and friends has been great." "Besides some minor pain, that just occurs off and on, I'm doing all right."
On the support from Menomonie:
"It just goes to show, how deep and how tradition rich that program is, not only just in the wins and the percentage, the state championships and the conference titles, but how much it truly is a family that extends beyond your years in high school. I can still pick up the phone and talk to Coach La Buda or Coach Stanley or any of the coaches up there and if I had questions, especially when I was a college athlete ... they were always there, so it had that family aspect, of Menomonie football.
You work as hard as you do in a program like that, you really do develop those bonds and this is a telling example of that."
On his next step in life:
"It's changing, but I've wanted to get back into coaching football at some point and this doesn't stop me from doing that. I wanted to go back and get my master's degree and this doesn't stop me from doing that. There's a lot of things that people would view as blocks, I just view this as another obstacle and basically another sled to hit in practice. I just gotta move it day by day and I'm gonna push to the top of the hill and I'm gonna conquer this thing." “It's not gonna define me, it's just gonna be something that I've overcome."
On how faith is helping him through the recovery process:
"I think this is God's calling to me ... I think he's given me the opportunity to show people that no matter what happens to you, if you put your faith in God, what amazing things you can do. Let him take the lead and look what he can do with me having my legs blown off in Afghanistan, and come back home as I let him take the lead and show the power that he has just with what can be accomplished."
His message to everyone who's sent well wishes:
"Thank you for the overwhelming support that I've been getting. I know countless people have called me, have left me voicemails, texts, Facebook messages, everything, sometimes I don't get back to everyone, because I'm busy, or I'm in surgery or I'm tired, but let it be understood that I read every message, every one of them matters to me and I thank the Menomonie community so much for the support they've been giving me at this time."