Jason Pak grew up in a military family. His father, a colonel, was a West Point graduate who served 30 years in the Army. His service inspired Pak to join.
After graduating from high school in 2007, Pak received an appointment to West Point. While at the academy, he learned the importance of building strong relationships with others in order to be a good leader.
Pak graduated from the Academy in 2011 with a degree in systems engineering. He later completed both Airborne School and Ranger School. Following his time in Ranger School, Pak reported to his first unit based in Fort Lewis, Washington, where he was an assistant battalion fire support officer. Pak and the rest of his battalion spent time at the National Training Center in California before deploying to Afghanistan in October 2012.
Based in Panjwai, they often interacted with the Afghan people during reconnaissance patrols and worked closely with the Afghan National Army and the local police. Pak also participated in routine patrols as a company fire support officer.
On Dec. 12, 2012, insurgent activity near Pak’s location led to an airstrike. Afterwards, Pak and his company completed post-airstrike battle damage assessment. During the assessment, the unit maintained a single file line, marking their steps as the path of life. The mine detector went first, and Pak was in charge of telling the patrol where to go. The patrol followed all procedures, but an IED exploded when Pak crossed a mound.
Pak was knocked backwards, and the IED blew off both his legs and two of his fingers. Members of his unit pulled him away and applied first aid by fastening tourniquets to his legs. Despite being in great pain, Pak’s main concern at the time was making sure that no one else had been injured during the explosion.
Team members put Pak on a stretcher and took him to the closest checkpoint. A helicopter evacuated him to an operating room in Kandahar. When he woke up from his surgery, he received a Purple Heart.
By Dec. 16, Pak transferred to Walter Reed National Military Center for recovery. While there, fellow wounded soldiers visited him to support his recovery and foster a positive perspective.
Ultimately, Pak medically retired from the Army at the rank of captain. Although he had initially pictured himself having a career in the military, Pak has embraced new opportunities as they have come his way. Pak is now the director of the Mid-Atlantic region’s veterans’ initiatives and outreach for Boeing.
When discussing his prosthetics and point of view about the future in an interview with the American Veterans Center, Pak said, “I wasn’t going to make this define me. I wasn’t going to make this prevent me from doing the things that I love.”
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