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Soldier amputee visits family, friends in Washington County


n Forest Grove's Jason Walker faces more therapy for right leg

Walking with the aid of a prosthetic leg, Army Spc. Jason Walker leads his wife Ashlie and the couples youngest son, Ryan (background), off a private jet at the Hillsboro Airport.Forest Grove native Jason Walker strode across the tarmac at the Hillsboro Airport last Wednesday into the waiting arms of relatives welcoming him home for the first time since he lost a leg while serving in the military.

Members of the honor guard from Washington County, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion also showed up to greet the returning veteran.

“It’s so nice here!” Walker exulted under clear-blue skies, accompanied by his wife Ashlie and the couple’s sons, Jacob, 7, and Ryan, 1. The weather, he observed, was “much better” than in San Antonio, Texas, where the Army specialist has been recuperating for nine months at Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston.

“It’s hot and humid there, and there are bugs,” he said, flashing a wide grin. Walker, 29, who graduated from Forest Grove High School in 2003, stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) in the Wardak province of southeastern Afghanistan on Sept. 5, 2013 during his third deployment to the Middle East.

Doctors removed his left leg below the knee and fitted him with a prosthetic device.

Because he was injured in combat as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, Walker — a combat engineer with the 87th Sapper Company, 36th Engineer Brigade out of Fort Hood, Texas — was awarded the Purple Heart. In May, he completed a mini-triathlon for wounded warriors, biking eight miles, swimming 500 meters and walking two miles. Jason Walker hugs a family member after arriving back in Washington County for a visit after nine months of physical rehabilitation in San Antonio, Texas.

“It was a personal challenge that gave me something new to achieve,” said Walker, whose right leg sustained severe damage from shrapnel in the IED explosion. “I came in second to last — it took me a little more than three hours.

“But I made every effort, and I showed I can accomplish stuff.”

His right leg “doesn’t extend all the way,” he said, and muscle and nerve damage has been complicated by vascular problems as well. He’s had two skin grafts, which could take up to three years to fully heal.

“My right leg is actually my bad leg,” Walker quipped. “On my left leg, all I got was an amputation.”

Before Walker returns to Texas in July for more doctoring and physical therapy, he and his family aim to pack a lot of activity into their three-week trip home while staying with family members in Cornelius. On Friday, Walker served as best man at the wedding of his friend, Brent Voigt, whom he met in Forest Grove in 1992. On Monday, the family went on an outing to the Oregon Zoo.

Walker also plans to travel to Enterprise, Ore., to visit his dad and stepmom. And he’s been invited to serve as grand marshal of the Wallowa, Ore., Fourth of July parade.

“We’re going to just have fun,” said Ashlie Walker, who pushed her husband’s wheelchair toward a waiting rental car June 18 once the reception line thinned. After that, Forest Grove Fire & Rescue personnel gave young Jacob Walker a ride in a big red engine, leading the entourage along Highway 8 between Hillsboro and Forest Grove.

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: CHASE ALLGOOD - Forest Grove native Jason Walker was all smiles last Wednesday as he returned home for the first time since suffering a grievous injury while serving in the Army in the Middle East.A former Marine reservist, Jason Walker joined the Army in 2009 after losing his civilian job at the Cornelius Fred Meyer store. He’s still on active duty, but plans to disengage from the military within a year. In the interim, he’s taking classes through Virginia-based Liberty University and eventually hopes to become an elementary school teacher.

“Ideally, we’d like to move back to Oregon,” Walker said.