Jason's New Journey: Thankful for his health - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Jason's New Journey: Thankful for his health

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RINGGOLD, GA (WRCB) - Hometown hero Jason Smith has a lot to be thankful for this year. He's the recipient of this year's Steps2Hope home build and just welcomed a new baby girl into his family.

But after losing both legs in an IED explosion in 2012, while serving our country in Afghanistan, Jason's New Journey also includes bringing one of his old passions back into his life.

Most people have no trouble putting on a pair of sneakers, tying the laces tight, and going outside for a run. It's something many people would take for granted, even Sgt. Jason Smith said he used to love running as a way to keep in shape.

But now, after losing both legs in an IED explosion, Jason's new journey includes bringing an old passion back into his life.

"The gym is my therapy,” said Smith, “You know in the beginning I went to a therapist and it just wasn't for me. I'd sit there, he'd stare at me, and I'd stare at him."

It's not unusual for a US Army Sergeant to find comfort in the gym. Service members have to keep their bodies in their best shape to serve their country.

But after Jason Smith stepped on an IED in Afghanistan, comfort didn't seem possible.

"It's extremely hard to do certain exercises, that's for sure,” Smith said, “I come with a bag full of gadgets that I have to use to work out."

During the IED explosion, Smith lost both legs and both arms and hands were severely damaged.

Unable to grip, step, or pull, Smith still found a way to make the machines in a gym work, when parts of his body would not.

"I have a remote control for my leg that locks it out so I can shrug and do leg raises,” Smith said, “I have this strap here that I can tie to my hand to lift weights, you know these knuckles don't work. It's just index and thumb."

Two years and four months after the bomb went off, Sgt. Jason Smith is back in the gym and looks like he never left.

"I regained my confidence,” Smith said, “I didn't trust my body in the beginning. I stinks to have your body give out on you."

What Smith didn't lose when that bomb went off was his strength and motivation. The very qualities that made Smith an Alpha Team Leader in the Army were going to be what saved him.

"A month and a half into still being in the hospital I started doing pushups again,” Smith said, “I was driven to get back into shape."

Smith decided on a goal, but recovering from his injuries was not so simple.

"I realized it's time for me to get in shape when I hit about 190,” Smith said, “You know and it was a steady diet of milk duds and red bulls. That's not living for anybody."

At times Smith said he battled PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and depression. He realized the active lifestyle he once lived, was going to be so much harder to get back.

"Still to this day I haven't ran," Smith said.

Smith's brother-in-law, Jeremy Wallace, joins him at the gym five-six days a week.

Wallace is there to hold Smith's legs during certain workouts, but aside from that, Smith usually doesn't ask for help.

"His attitude,” Wallace said, “I mean his attitude, from the first time I met him his attitude was just inspiring."

Wallace saw his attitude, along with everyone else working out at his gym.

"Sometimes people just kind of stare you know, because it is amazing,” Wallace said, “But you got to be careful not to make him feel uncomfortable or anything."

Smith admits there are even a few occasions when his workout doesn't go as planned.

"I was having someone hold my legs, and my leg fell off,” Smith said, “The guy picked it up like ‘What!?‘ and I was like 'I don't know man..' it happens a lot."

Smith wants to take his dedication in the gym one step further. He's going back to school and is interested in physical therapy or becoming a personal trainer.   

"In my experience I'd rather get told, you know 'you can do it, it's not too hard,' Smith said, “By someone who's been through it, as opposed to "oh you got this" and they have no idea what you're talking about."

Smith said there's one thing he's not ready to give up, and that's being able to go running.

He's working on getting a new pair of prosthetic legs that will allow him to learn to run again.

More efforts to raise donations for his Steps2Hope home build are coming up in December, including a Wounded Veteran 5k trail run.

The run will be on Dec. 13, at 9:00 a.m. at the Catoosa County training center.

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