FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kansas (May 13, 2021) -- To promote the importance of resiliency to soldiers, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command sent Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient J.P. Lane on a tour of Army installations throughout the country to share his story.
Lane visited Fort Leavenworth May 10-13, his third stop on a 14-stop tour.
He shared his story with Combined Arms Center and CAC-Training personnel, Command and General Staff Officer Course students, and 15th Military Police Brigade personnel.
Lane said he was in eighth grade when the 9-11 terrorist attacks happened in 2001, and from that moment on knew he wanted to serve in the Army.
“As we were being told from our teacher that we were under attack, one of the things that ran through my mind was I want to serve and protect and be a part of this nation’s military so that I can be a part of that never happening again,” Lane said.
After he graduated high school, Lane went to the recruiting office and asked for the most dangerous job. From there, he enlisted as a combat engineer in 2008.
In October 2010, he deployed to Afghanistan as a specialist with the 428th Engineer Company to search for improvised explosive devices.
Lane said he and members of his unit stayed safe on the mission for the first several months despite two IEDs detonating while out on route patrol.
“When you’re getting shot at and you’re getting blown up and nothing is happening to any of our troops, now we start to get that mindset of invincibility,” Lane said. “You start getting a little comfortable with the deployment and everything is OK, and you’re feeling like there’s nothing to worry about. I’m going home. Every one of my soldiers is going home. We’re just going to get blown up from time to time.
“Everything’s good until March 26, 2011 — my best friend was shot and killed by a sniper — one of the toughest days of my life,” he said. “For me, I especially thought he was coming home.”
Lane said he held residual feelings of anger, frustration and revenge after that day, and he was not in a good place mentally.
“During that process, I felt something changing inside of me. … A lot of us know that when something tragic like that happens, we tend to come home with that,” Lane said. “We come home frustrated, upset and questioning all sorts of things. There’s only one thing that could change that person that I had become.”
That one thing happened July 2, 2011, when an IED detonated underneath the mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicle Lane was driving.
The explosion left Lane with his right foot and left leg amputated, a traumatic brain injury, a dislocated spine, a broken pelvis, extensive internal injuries and more. He endured 28 surgeries and was in a coma for a month and a half.
Lane said the doctors said he might have mental problems because of the TBI and extensive time in a coma, and that he’d never be able to walk with prosthetics because of the burns on his right leg affecting the strength of the skin. But Lane said he wanted to prove them wrong, and he did despite obstacles, including thoughts of suicide.
“One of the things that got me through was ‘I got your six. I’m here for you in your moment of weakness, but we’re going to get through this and we’re going to overcome,’” Lane said, sharing a photo of his battle buddies who flew in from various states just to visit him in the hospital for the afternoon. “The Army taught me one model that I will never forget. ‘Never give up. Never surrender.’
“These (prosthetics) are painful every single day. … But the reason why I stay strong and was able to move past the pain and move past the negative thoughts that I had during all this time were the four pillars (of resiliency) that make me who I am,” he said. “This is why I’m able to overcome anything I face.”
Lane gave examples of how each of the four pillars — physical, mental, social and spiritual — helped him face challenges following the explosion, and eventually led to him returning to Afghanistan in 2018 to share his story with U.S. troops, allies and Afghans.
“The last time I left that country, I left on a stretcher practically dead,” Lane said. “This time, I got to leave on my own two feet — government-issued — with a smile on my face, my head held high and on my own terms.”
While on that trip to Afghanistan, Lane met Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Hendrix, now the command sergeant major of TRADOC, which led to establishing his current tour with TRADOC.
“Through this entire journey … I’ve been able to show myself and others how to find the positive in any negative,” he said. “The ability to overcome and be stronger at the end of everything is because of the four pillars (of resiliency). Now, I get to enjoy my life, enjoy everything I get to do … because I didn’t give up and I didn’t surrender.”
Maj. Sabrina Canizales, CGSOC student, said being able to hear Lane’s personal story of resiliency was powerful.
“It’s definitely something that is going to inspire a shift in perspective for a lot of our leaders because we don’t often keep that type of perspective of what soldiers are going through and bringing it back to why we do what we do,” Canizales said. “Besides the initial shock and awe (of hearing Lane’s personal story), it’s more relatable hearing it directly from someone who processed that event.”
Spc. Estefano Alejandro, 15th MP Brigade S1, said he finds his biggest inspirations have come from stories like Lane’s.
“With him being a double amputee and he still manages to walk around each day and do things we all normally do really shows that it’s all mental,” Alejandro said. “In all these stories, they go into it not having yet gone through anything too tough but then they come out of it a stronger person. They develop character. They take those experiences and come out of it with a positive outlook.
“I always enjoy and appreciate hearing the stories of people who go through that because if I ever go through anything tough in my life, I can just take those experiences and apply it to myself.”
Lane’s next tour stop is Fort Sam Houston, Texas, May 17-19.