Wounded Warriors are called warriors for a reason. Despite their trials and tribulations, they are committed to being resilient. But even wounded warriors sometimes need support. Staff Sgt. Jed Weidner is one of those Wounded Warriors, and on Feb. 14, two chaplains, Maj. William Breckenridge and Capt. Heeja Han, were the support for Weidner and his wife Sasha.
Weidner has one of the most dangerous jobs in the armed forces -- explosive ordnance disposal (EOD). He was assigned to the 49th Ordnance Disposal at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and deployed with his unit to Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria. In July 2016, Weidner deployed with his unit to Q-West Iraq, then on to Syria in support of the 5th Special Forces Group.
During a foot patrol mission on Nov. 7, 2016, Weidner sustained injuries from an improvised explosive device (IED) that resulted in the loss of his left hand. Weidner was immediately airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, then flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC)) in Bethesda, Maryland. He is attached to the Warrior Transition Brigade.
Maj. Breckenridge and Capt. Han, both chaplains with the 52d Ordnance Group 184th EOD Battalion from Fort Campbell, spent hours visiting Weidner and Sasha at Walter Reed.
"Although the first few days were hectic, Chaplain Han and Chaplain Breckenridge kept us calm and gave us a sense of peace," Weidner said. "Chaplain Breckenridge even greeted my wife with a rose, which I thought was very nice, and they both prayed with us."
The mission of the U.S. Army Chaplains Corps is to provide religious support to the Army. Soldiers often need the support of chaplains as they navigate through the challenges that service brings, and more so when they face life-changing events and trauma.
"Chaplain Han and Chaplain Breckenridge went above and beyond," Sasha said. "They stayed by our side and even keep in touch to this day. Chaplain Han prayed with me continuously."
"The best part of the visit was when Chaplain Han took my wife for a walk and gave us advice when I was in the hospital bed," Weidner said. "It helped that they were both always smiling and had a positive attitude. I truly thank them from the bottom of my heart for their care and concern."
Injuries like Weidner's do not mean the end of a military career. He and Sasha plan to return to Fort Campbell, and complete their college degrees.
"My message to soldiers is that, no matter how difficult it seems, you are truly responsible for you own recovery and your future path. You have to take ownership of your own life. However, having those who care around at challenging times does help you to stay strong." Said Weidner
The experience was mutually beneficial to the Chaplain duo. Ch (MAJ) Breckenridge shared the following sentiment: "CH (CPT) Han, and myself, can honestly say we are deeply encouraged by SSG Jed Weidner and his wife, Sasha, due to their incredible optimism. The word 'resilient' is used quite often in the U.S. Army, and the Weidner's epitomizes its meaning. Experiencing extreme trauma as newlyweds, yet still be optimistic about the future is amazing and not typical. The EOD community is truly blessed to have such an amazing Soldier in SSG Weidner and his wife, Sasha."