I wondered aloud whether the Purple Heart recipient would do it all again. “No regrets,” he said, bluntly. Before long, fatigued from travel and conversation, he dozed off.
With his son quietly sleeping next to us, Mike spoke openly about the tremendous life changes he and his wife have experienced as full-time caregivers. “It would be so easy to become bitter,” he said. “But you just can’t.”
With Jason’s shoulders slumped and chin dropped down as he slept, I asked about two large spots on the back of his head. “Those are not from the attack. Those are bedsores." He paused. "The hospital didn’t notice them in time.”
He watched his son for a moment before turning back to me and saying quietly, “Bitterness can ruin you.”
Mike also shared his family’s mission to advocate for critical reforms at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. They’ve spent many hours on Capitol Hill lobbying for better care for Jason and the thousands of other injured vets who deserve much more than they often receive. Their work has been hailed by the Wounded Warriors Project and the family was featured in a short film broadcast on MSNBC (and also available on YouTube.)
When our train came to a stop, I stayed with the family and joined them on a long journey to the street that took us through Penn Station, on three separate elevators and through parts of Madison Square Garden until we could find a way outside to meet their ride. What would have taken anyone else just a minute or two took us 15. But oddly, I was the only one who seemed to notice.
As we took a picture and I said goodbye to Jason Ehrhart and his family, I thanked him for his service and acknowledged the privilege of being on the same train, the same car and the same row with the young man with the big smile.
Jason Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars" and "The Wednesday Letters." Learn more at jasonfwright.com, or connect on Facebook at facebook.com/jfwbooks or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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