Army Veteran inspires White House with story of resilience


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Staff Sgt. Jason Gibson was just three months into his third deployment, when he stepped on an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Afghanistan. Despite the severity of his wounds, he watched as medics frantically tried to stop the bleeding and get him evacuated out of the combat zone.

“I remember everything about that day up until I was loaded up on the helicopter,” he said. “I blacked out after that, and when I woke up I was at Walter Reed.”

A few short weeks later, President Obama visited him at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington, D.C.

He recalls being told the president was coming to meet him. When it happened, Gibson, who lost both legs after multiple surgeries, wasn’t sure who the man shaking his hand was – a side effect of the arduous road to recovery and traumatic injuries he sustained.

Jason Gibson

Jason Gibson

“I was in and out – the stuff they had me on stayed in my system for a long time – and even a couple of weeks after first getting to Walter Reed, I wasn’t all there, and that’s when the president came to see me,” Gibson said with a chuckle recalling the 2012 meeting.

But as the fog of treatment settled, he emerged with a clear understanding of who his visitor was. Last fall, after almost two years of recovery, the Westerville, Ohio, native wanted to thank the president for his visit.

“I thought there was so much bad press, and even hate, at that time,” he said. “I wanted to thank him for coming and seeing me, but I also wanted to let him know how far I’d come. He saw me at my worst, those days I couldn’t even move in my bed without help, but I wanted him to remember me by how much I had accomplished.”

In his letter, Gibson explained to the president that, “there is life after a traumatic event and good can come of all things.”

The president did remember. He recalled that meeting, as well as Gibson’s letter, in his weekly address last Saturday.

“While serving in Afghanistan, Jason Gibson was gravely wounded—he lost both his legs,” Obama shared. “When I first met him in the hospital, he was just beginning his long, difficult road to recovery. But last year, Sgt. Gibson wrote to tell me that with the help of our extraordinary doctors and nurses, he’s making extraordinary progress. He just moved into a new home, and he and his wife just had a baby girl.”

Gibson’s words struck a chord at the White House. Last night, Gibson and his young family joined the first lady as the president gave his State of the Union address.

Just hours before the event, Gibson reflected on the invitation and the opportunity to be a part of history, he also looked at what got him to this point in his life and rehabilitation.
“Everyone has that one day when you wonder ‘why did this happen to me,’ and you’re angry at everything,” he said. “But after that, you realize how many people are there to support you. For me it was my family and church family.”

Gibson, who gets his medical care at the Dayton VA Medical Center, said staying active helped him get through the toughest days of his recovery. At first he had to relearn how to sit up, and then to use a wheelchair, but in less than two years he was trying as many adaptive sports as he could with the help of his occupational therapists. He’s now participated in four marathons by using a handcycle.

He wants his fellow Veterans to know they should also get moving.

“I want to show that if you want to do something, there is a way to do it,” he said. “It may not be the quickest way, but a disability doesn’t have to stop you from doing what you want to do.”

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For more on SSG Jason Gibson’s story, see:

Dayton VA patient guest of Obamas at State of the Union – Dayton Daily News

Unbreakable: Wounded warrior Jason Gibson – CNN

The most impressive State of the Union guest – CBS

Author

Reynaldo Leal

– Reynaldo Leal is a public affairs officer for VA’s office of Digital Media Engagement and member for the VAntage Point’s staff. He is a proud Marine Corps Veteran who deployed to the Al Anbar Province with 3rd Battalion 5th Marine Regiment in 2004 and 2006. He also took part in some of the heaviest fighting during Operation Phantom Fury in 2004.

Comments

  1. Mary Thomas    

    SSG Gibson,
    My boyfriend is a Marine Vet and though his wounds are only on the inside, his road to recovery has been extremely difficult. He is making very bad decisions lately and I am begging you to talk to him please or make some sort of contact? Your view on the world is exactly what he needs to hear and soon. He sees himself as someone that cannot do any good and as subhuman because of the things that he had to do while on deployment. There are other matters that have snowballed on him as well but his ptsd from the two deployments he went on is one of the biggest recovery segments he has to make.
    Sincerely,
    Mary

    1. Danny    

      Mary, I am in a program called HORSES WITH HEART. The VETERANS Administration should have information on a similar program in your area. Working with the horses & handicapped kids has helped me cope with PTSD more than any medications they have given me. CHECK IT OUT. Start in the mental health dept. Good luck, & thank you for standing by my brother veteran.

      1. brenda hayes    

        Danny, This is the kind of program I am interested in seeing get started in St. Lucie County, Florida. We have a large community with children and adults that would benefit from a partnership with our Disabled Veterans. Who would be a good contact for doing such? We have a Special Olympics Equestrian Program here and in the neighboring counties; we have a 4H program through the Colleges and Universities.
        As you know..Vets are mission oriented; being a mentor to our children, young adults with Disabilities could be a great Win/Win! I also would like to see the duplication of the Horticulture Program that I have seen for Veterans I believe that Started out in California. another opportunity for a Win/Win Partnership!! Looking for contacts to make this happen at the VA level and at our Regional or local levels. Thanks for what you do and what you have done! Looking to hear…to make it HAPPEN!!

  2. Lisa Bremmer, CEO    

    Dear SSG Gibson:
    Thank you for teaching children across our great Nation that a smile lies deep within everyone, along with the ability to endure and accomplish great things. You have overcome such extraordinary odds, with nothing less than inspiring words and a peaceful smile to share despite such obstacles. You are an inspiration to us all and a beautiful human being. Let us all lead by your humility and gracious example. We thank you for your service to our country and for your selfless sacrifice while protecting our freedoms.

    The Oohrah! Family

  3. Lic. Pierre Millet    

    Dear Gibson:

    Thank you for your services to our country. Your are example of resilience and goodwill.

    God bless you
    God bless America

    1. brenda hayes    

      Gibson,

      We all can learn from you!! What an OUTSTANDING young man…I am so appreciative of what you do and what you say and how you say it!!! I am so proud of you!! if you ever need another Mother figure in your life…I am here for you!!! What a wonderful young man…what a wonderful son you are….Carry on, young man; keep doing what you do best…be yourself…especially with that twinkle in your eye and the blessing of your smile.
      Your impervious “I can do it attitude” is just the embodiment of you!! Hugs, Brenda

  4. Leah Margaret Barone    

    What a glorious story of a brave young warrior. May God grant his blessings upon you and your family in all of your future endeavors.

    Sincerely,

    Leah

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