DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — Jason Wills was wounded in Iraq nearly 20 years ago, but he still deals with the effects of that event today.
Wills enlisted in the U.S. Army to try something new. He thought it would be fine because, at the time, the U.S. was at peace. But two months into boot camp, the U.S. was attacked on 9/11 and Wills was soon deployed to war in the Middle East.
“We ended up going to Afghanistan and right after that, that’s when we went to Iraq,” Wills said.
Three months into his deployment to Iraq, Wills almost died.
“I should have died over there,” he said. “That’s how I look at it. I was supposed to die.”
Wills’ company was responsible for patrolling and making sure no IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were being set up. One day, he and his truck were ambushed.
“When we turned around, two RPGs [rocket propelled grenades] hit our truck,” Wills said. “I was the gunner and when it hit, shrapnel went all throughout the left side of my body.”
Wills remembers getting taken out of the vehicle, going to the medics and then being on a helicopter fighting for his life before everything went dark.
“I cannot die here. This is not going to happen,” Wills said he thought at the time. “I had a daughter at home and I wasn’t going to leave her.”
Wills still deals with the impact of the blast.
“I have a brain injury,” he said. “I still have seven pieces of shrapnel still in my brain.”
He had to learn how to walk, talk, read and write all over again.
“Here I still have shrapnel that still comes out,” Wills said. “Small pieces, nothing major.”
Memories of the event have become a daily companion.
“Survivor’s guilt, sometimes,” Wills said. “Because I lost my platoon sergeant that day.”
Despite all of that, Wills said he would do it all again.
“Wouldn’t change it for the world,” he said.
Wills keeps the patches he was wearing when he was wounded, including a blood-splattered patch of an American flag. It’s a reminder to him that he never gave up and he hopes it will serve as a reminder to others of the sacrifice he and so others made for out country.
It’s why Wills is a motivational speaker. He also hopes his story inspires others going through hard times that they can, and will, make it through.