Iraq veteran Jason Braase: I was Invincible
Model aviation group helps Wounded Warrior Project
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - Jason Braase grew up wanting to be a pilot playing with a A-10 Wart Hog toy plane and pretending to kill the bad guys just like the GI Joe action figure Sgt. Slaughter.
But Braase did not have 20-20 vision and had problems with color blindness that limited his military service.
The youth from Idaho improvised and memorized a color blind test and found himself training to drive a tank and other equipment for the Army National Guard in his home state.
The guard deployed him to Iraq in 2004 where he was assigned to Baghdad to help with election that created democracy after the United States ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.
Full of confidence and determination, Braase thought he was invincible until the Humvee he was driving ran over a roadside bomb that exploded. The blast nearly blew off his leg.
From that moment laying on the ground, Braase's life changed dramatically and he now helps other veterans working for the Wounded Warrior Project.
Braase was speaking at the the National Model Aviation Day event in Muncie on Saturday held at the Academy of Model Aeronautics. About 100 people stoped by to see flying demonstrations and hear the incredible story of an Idaho youth who thought he might never walk again.
The AMA is the world's largest model aviation association with 150,000 members. Last year the group partnered with Wounded Warrior and raised $76,000 for that group's cause. Wounded Warrior is a national group that helps veteran with benefits, employment and education.
Braase said education was the reason he joined the National Guard to have the means to go to college. And he was very active as a youth, hiking, snowboarding and running.
With a GI Joe attitude, Braase enjoyed service and believed in helping those who wanted democracy in Iraq.
But laying on the ground, Braase could only feel pain through every cell in his body and he could not feel his leg.
At the hospital, Braase lost every drop of blood and only survived with transfusions from dozens of people. He laid unconscious for five days.
"I remember they said you were going home," said Braase. "You did your job."
The wounded soldier returned to Walter Reed Hospital where doctors began rebuilding his leg from the knee down. Braase recalled have no feeling in that leg for three weeks.
He recalled having those Kill Bill moments where he would try to wiggle his toe. Finally, feeling returned and doctors began a series of surgeries to give him the ability the walk again.
Braase said his injury stopped him from doing dozens of things, but his mind stopped him from doing thousands more. The stress and immobility left him feeling lost and hopeless.
A veteran from Wound Warriors gave him a back pack that helped change his mind and aided with his recovery. After a year of surgery and rehabilitation, Braase was on his feet and began working for the program that raises money and awareness for injured veterans.
"Those people helped bring my leg back and restored my sanity," said Braase.
His compelling story brought tears to some in the audience and a standing ovation from all after he finished.
Braase still adapts with problems he has balancing and lifting. And he thanks the group by the work he now does letting others know about helping veterans.
"If we work together, we can get anything done," said Braase.