This weekend, UW-La Crosse will pay tribute to our veterans with some special events. They'll also honor two of our country's heroes who were injured fighting the War on Terror.
23 year old Army Lieutenant Jason Church was deployed to Afghanistan in May, just one year after graduating from UW-La Crosse. But he would come home just a few months later, much sooner than expected.
Jason was on a foot patrol in an abandoned village, in an area of Afghanistan considered the birthplace of the Taliban, when an IED exploded. It blew off both of his legs below the knee.
His fellow soldiers quickly came to his aid and were able to get him help, but the damage had already been done. "There was a loud explosion obviously and I don't remember the first few seconds, I don't know how long I was knocked out or dazed, I remember coming to, you see the white light and realize, one, I'm not dead and two I looked and my legs were obviously gone at that point," said Jason.
He is back in La Crosse at his Alma Mater this weekend. During half-time of the UW-L/UW-Whitewater football game Saturday, Jason will receive the Purple Heart.
Jason's dad, who is currently a Colonel in the Army, will present his son with the award. "When I was in the hospital, I called Josh Whitman, the Athletic Director here at UW-L, and asked him if it was possible for me to do that as a former UW-L football player, I graduated from this institution, I consider it my home, it would be an honor ro receive an Purple Heart here," said Jason.
After this weekend, Jason will head back to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the Washington D.C. area where he'll continue intense rehabilitation.
Doctors tell him he should be up and walking with the use of a cane by the end of December and walking on his own with just the prosthetics in a few months.
Here are some of the events going on this weekend at UW-La Crosse:
It's called "Pack the Vet for Vets." The football game gets underway at 1:00 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are free to veterans with a military ID.
There will also be several pre-game recognitions including a special honor for Corporal Gauge Griffin, another soldier from our area who was injured fighting in Afghanistan.
Then on Sunday, there's a free Veteran's Breakfast. Doors open at UW-L's Mitchell Hall at 8 a.m. with a special ceremony at 9:00 a.m. and breakfast at 10 a.m.