Quitting Isn’t in My DNA – A Soldier’s Story of Never Accepting Defeat
Courage is the choice to act in bravery when faced with hardship, fear, opposition or danger. It is the foundation of a soldier and a cornerstone of leadership.
For Dallas engineer and Army veteran Jake Murphy, the test of courage came when he risked his physical safety for the betterment of his troops, and again when he found opportunity in hardship.
On a hot July afternoon, Jake prepared to set foot on a patrol through the Afghanistan desert.
“I didn’t have to go,” Jake said. “I was the executive officer, but it was a company-wide patrol and they needed another officer, so I raised my hand and volunteered.”
As the company cautiously made its way outside the wire and down the dirt road, a machine gunner had fallen behind. Jake turned back to help lighten the soldier’s load by carrying the weapon so the unit would not fall behind.
“In a split second, my entire life changed,” Jake said.
Jake had stepped on a pressure plate improvised explosion device and immediately lost his left leg below the knee in the explosion. He was medically evacuated from the battlefield to a hospital in Germany and then to Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.
While stopped in Germany, before flying to the States, Jake called his family and girlfriend, Lisa, to tell them what had happened. At the time, Lisa was studying for her master’s degree in New York. When Lisa received the news, she packed her bags and drove to Walter Reed without hesitation.
During his transport to the United States, Jake suffered from excessive blood loss causing him to lose his right leg. Due to the extreme loss of blood from his extremities Jake fell into a coma.
Doctors informed his family that he may never wake up.
“I lost so much blood that I had to be placed on life support,” Jake said. “I was out of it for about a month in a coma. When I woke up, I had to start all over again.”
Jake spent the next year going through physical rehab and getting back on his feet. Not only did Jake have to regain his bearings, he would have to relearn how to walk in his new prosthetics.
Lisa never left his side.
“I knew when she dropped everything and came to Walter Reed for me that I had to, and wanted to, marry her,” Jake said.
Jake met Lisa when he was in her New York hometown a few years earlier while stationed at Fort Drum. It was a perfect match. They’d been together through trainings, a deployment, and now, this. They got married in May of the following year and now have two children.
While Jake said yes to forever with the love of his life, he had to say goodbye to another — the Army.
Jake, an athletic high schooler, always had an interest in joining the service. Once he received a scholarship to West Point, he knew serving his country would be his destiny. After graduating from West Point, Jake commissioned into the U.S. Army as an Infantry Officer. He immediately went on to graduate basic officer course, Airborne and Ranger school.
“I loved the Army,” Jake said. “I liked the responsibility and being a positive influence on the soldiers in my platoon. Even though I was their boss, we were a family, especially when we deployed.”
As an Army officer, Jake would “lead from the front” which often meant shouldering the responsibilities of his soldiers, exposing himself to risk and facing danger with courage.
Although he’d received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his service and was still a valued member of his unit, Jake knew he couldn’t stay forever.
“I knew I wanted to try to translate my Army skills into the corporate world and I wanted to be a leader again,” Jake said.
Jake used his networks to search and find a job once he medically retired from the Army and recently found his home here at Lockheed Martin.
Jake works in Evolution and Development assisting in developing new products and supporting flight tests in addition to other responsibilities. He said he loves this type of work because of the impact it has and the fresh perspective he brings to the team.
“I’m really happy I made the jump to Lockheed Martin,” Jake said. “I really like the people and the mission that we serve. Everyone I’ve come across really cares and puts the customer first. I was a customer first and now I get to help keep them safe.”
Nearly seven years later, Jake looks back and reflects on the day that changed the course of his life.
“Quitting isn’t in my DNA,” Jake said. “I don’t see myself as this incredible person who overcame a lot. When I think about it, I lost my legs. You have two options — you feel bad for yourself and pity yourself, or you think, ‘what can I do to make this the best that I can?'"
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