By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom
“This is not a program you run out and want to join like Boy Scouts. You just end up here,” SFC Jarrett Jongema explained. “We all have one thing in common—we’ve been through hell and back.”
Jongema was severely wounded in Iraq. Blasted 50 feet from his Humvee’s (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) turret, Jongema had his face ripped off by a razor wire, his leg shattered, his lung collapsed, his body impaled by a fence, and his heart bruised. He was shot, proclaimed dead seven times, and sustained a traumatic brain injury. This was “the hell” and “the back” was his work to recover.
“There is a stigma out there and anyone who denies it is full of crap. Anyone with a profile is viewed as being broken and busted with limitations. I know I used to think that,” Jongema explained. “But, being in a challenging job that exercised my mind and speech really helped my recovery. It’s been a great job at HRC [Army Human Resources Command], and I’m not ready to quit. I love to wear the uniform.”
Jongema, the Senior Enlisted Career Advisor for the Air Defense and Public Affairs Career Management Field, is going through the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) process and plans to Continue on Active Duty rather than medically retire. “I want to be actively engaged and help Soldiers—to have the greatest amount of visibility so that I have the greatest level of impact on wounded warriors.” Jongema added, “My goals include promotion to MSG [master sergeant] and possibly working at a Warrior Transition Unit.” He’s also working on his degree because he knows there is life after the uniform and says, “Everything I do in uniform prepares me for that.”
This week, Jongema is working as one of 30 delegates at the AW2 Continue on Active Duty/Continue on Active Reserve (COAD/COAR) Forum to update the Army’s regulations that manage Soldiers found unfit for duty but continue to serve. “With all the subject matter experts here, our experiences, and leadership’s support—I know something good will come out of this week.”
As for life after “hell and back,” Jongema replied, “We’ve all had our challenges being wounded and continuing to serve. These guys, they all have so much heart and drive doing what they love and cannot be written off. I know I’m still a force to be reckoned with.”