Fort Leonard Wood gets inspirational visitor

Brian Hill
Fort Leonard Wood

“Never give up; never surrender.” That is the message retired Spc. Justin “JP” Lane had for Soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood this week during his visit as part of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Holistic Outreach and Engagement Campaign.

Lane is a Purple Heart recipient, combat veteran and a double amputee who survived the blast from a 200-pound improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011. He is now a musician and an inspirational speaker who promotes post-traumatic growth to combat wounded veterans.

“After losing both my legs, one of the things I encourage people to do is remember what the military taught me and taught them; that’s never give up, never surrender,” he said Tuesday after speaking to nearly 200 injured Soldiers assigned to the Fitness Training Unit. “The doctors were telling me I wasn’t going to be able to do a lot of things. For example, use prosthetics because of the burns on my legs, that I wasn’t going to be able to sing ever again because of the damage done to my vocal cords, and a lot of other things — but I never gave up.”

Lane has been to Fort Leonard Wood before. After joining the Army in 2008, he attended One Station Unit Training here with Company D, 31st Engineer Battalion — he graduated as a combat engineer and deployed soon after.

The IED left him in a coma for six weeks. Survival meant undergoing 28 surgeries.

“They said the only organs working in my body (after the explosion) were my heart and one of my lungs,” he said. “I always remembered the things that kept me going: my faith, my family, my friends, and what the military taught me.”

Lane — who travels with his wife, Crystal — began this partnership with TRADOC in March. He said he hopes to continue spreading his message of positivity indefinitely at military installations across the country.

“We’re very excited to be back on the team, traveling and encouraging these troops,” he said. “It’s awesome getting to do this. I know if I’ve been able to overcome everything I’ve been through, everyone can overcome so much more than they can imagine. They’ve just got to keep taking it step by step.”

One of the Soldiers in the audience at the FTU was Pvt. Austin Sooter, a 19-year-old Army diver trainee from Denver, who was assigned to Delta Company at the 31st Engineer Battalion, when he slipped on ice and dislocated his knee, tore a ligament and had a fracture. Sooter is two months into his rehabilitation and looks forward to returning to training as soon as possible.

“I was really happy to hear that he was from Delta as well,” Sooter said. “He has an amazing story and I thought he was really relatable. He seems to be kind of like me — he likes to joke a lot.”

Sooter said it was his life-long dream to join the Army, and hearing Lane’s story encouraged him to work even harder to overcome his injuries.

“What I took from it was that no matter what, anything can be possible,” he said.

More information on Lane and his story can be found on his website, jpsjourney.com, or on social media @jplaneofficial.

Inspirational speaker and retired Spc. Justin "JP" Lane tells his story of surviving the blast from a 200-pound inprovised explosive device in Afghanistan to injured trainees assigned to the Fitness Training Unit Tuesday at the 43rd Adjutant General Battalion auditorium. Lane is here this week speaking to Fort Leonard Wood personnel on behalf of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and their Holistic Outreach and Engagement Campaign. (Photo by Brian Hill)