Speaking at a TRADOC Leadership Professional Development roundtable, Justin “JP” Lane said he knew for most of his life he was destined to be a Soldier.
“I joined because as an 8th grader I saw the twin towers fall, and I decided when I’m old enough I could prevent that from ever happening again,” Lane said. “As the dust settled and my tears settled, I knew I was going to serve my country. I had a strategic plan, by going Reserve and having an 8-year contract, and travel and work elsewhere.
My plan was to go active duty and become 100% Army.
“I wanted to be as front-line as I could get. I asked my recruiter ‘what’s the most dangerous job there is? And he said ‘a combat engineer looks for bombs and makes bombs’, and I said ‘sign me up’.”
He was notified after training that he was deploying to Afghanistan, and he said he was thrilled. On his arrival to a Forward Operating Base, one of the biggest threats was improvised explosive devices, which were threats to Humvees and smaller vehicles. Lane, however, felt invincible riding in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and he related the ineffectual blasts to a fun ride.
”I really love roller coasters. When a blast goes off, and your truck goes up and comes back down, it feels like a roller coaster. In the moment, everyone was okay, so I thought ‘I could do this every single day and I don’t care, because if my Soldiers are fine, it’ll be okay,” Lane said. “Just a normal, everyday life, getting blown up.
“July second, 2018, was my day off. We leave the FOB to cover a dangerous route. We cleared it, and covered the rest of the routes and came back,” said Lane. “While we were gone, Taliban had come back and put in a bigger IED,” Lane said, adding that it was the first time an IED penetrated an RG31 (mine-resistant vehicle). “The blast amputated both legs, snapped my right arm in half, and everything in my torso was damaged except my heart and left lung. My spine had snapped in half, and … at that moment... I didn’t understand the extent of the damage.”
Lane suffered 26 injuries, was in a coma for two months, and underwent 28 surgeries.
U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Hendrex met Lane about three years ago, as part of Operation Proper Exit, to help wounded Soldiers leave the service on their own terms, by sharing medical records and classified event investigations downrange.
“I was stunned to read what Lane had gone through, and impressed that Lane even survived,” Hendrex said.
At the Center for the Intrepid, Lane was determined to recover as quickly as possible.
“As a double amputee, I was discharged in six months, instead of the usual two years of recovery. I needed to repeatedly tell myself, ‘we’re going to get through this. Never give up; never surrender.’ I continued to fight every single day.
“I was in a wheelchair for a year, and I got used to the height change, sitting all the time. Once in my prosthetics, I felt amazing,” Lane said, adding “It wasn’t until God told me ‘start music’ that I had a purpose and something to reach for, and all thoughts of suicide disappeared.”
Ten years later, Lane is now an inspirational speaker, singer, and recording an album. He said his resiliency comes from four pillars: faith, social, physical and mental.
“There will be trials we face, and we need to lean on our faith. Socially, you need to lift others up. Mentally – be tough and able to handle things; become smarter and allow your mind to be the best it can. Physically, keep up with your fitness. I’m not in the Army, and a double amputee, but I work out six days a week and three days it’s twice a day. When you look healthy and feel healthy, it helps you to grow,” Lane said.
“Don’t allow others to give you a title. People call me a wounded warrior. I don’t see myself as wounded. I feel stronger than ever in my life,” Lane said. “I’m just a warrior, not a wounded warrior. I have friends that humble me that are triple and quadruple amputees. Everybody has their own battles, and we can overcome our battles – together.”