‘Don’t give up, just keep moving forward’: Local wounded warrior with a contagious smile

ROANOKE, Va. – The events of 9/11 inspired Jason Ehrhart to enlist in the army. In December 2005, his life forever changed after an incident heading to a polling station for the first elections in Iraq.

“We were going over a two-ton anti-tank mine. It blew the humvee straight up and I was the gunner. It blew me out the top,” recalled Ehrhart.

Ehrhart was in a coma for three months and suffered second and third-degree burns to over 60% of his body.

“It resulted in a left leg amputation because of the blast and he had a severe traumatic brain injury,” said his mother, Pam Estes.

He also had to relearn how to swallow and talk. The road to recovery since that fateful day has been hard, but part of his healing is horseback riding – something that wasn’t easy at first.

“When I rode I could barely sit up. It was embarrassing,” Ehrhart said.

With the support of his family and those at Healing Strides of Virginia, riding is now somethings that’s second nature to him.

“He is at the point now where he is almost totally independently riding and he is able to sit on a horse,” Estes said.

Being among other veterans has helped him navigate social settings with his brain injury.

“Just the social interaction with both the instructors, the other riders, and volunteers has just been a huge boost,” Estes added.

Ehrhart is making strides both mentally and physically. His positive outlook is as contagious as his signature smile.

“Basically what happened to me is like, this is a speedbump. The explosion, just a speedbump.”

Ehrhart also has a message to other veterans: “Just don’t give up, just keep moving forward.”

About the Author:

Alyssa Rae grew up in Roanoke and graduated from Virginia Tech. An avid sports fan, she spent her first 8 years in TV as a sports anchor and reporter.