For Cadets at Cadet Summer Training (CST), completing the Basic or Advanced Camp obstacle courses is a rite of passage. For visiting motivational speaker and double amputee Spc. (Ret.) J.P. Lane, it’s a chance to show off his willpower, determination and Iron Man legs.
Lane, a former 12 Bravo Combat Engineer deployed to Afghanistan, lost both of his legs in 2011 to a 200-pound improvised explosive device (IED), also known as a roadside bomb, while clearing routes on a mission.
In addition to the amputations, Lane underwent 28 surgeries repairing 26 injuries to his spine, his right arm and his torso, many of which were caused by shrapnel from the explosion. These were only some of the physical aspects from the accident, which required months of rehabilitation. Even so, the damage to his mental health was much harder to overcome.
“A lot of people will go through the mental battle, the war inside, and struggle with that during the hospitalization time, therapeutic time, or just getting back into what they call their new normal and I was like everyone else,” said Lane.
He compared the mental battle to a real-life warzone.
“That battle within was getting the best of me and I was trying to fight it by myself. I realized we don’t go to war with one soldier. We go to war with an entire group of soldiers, companies, battalions —the entire army — we are there working together as one team, one fight, so why should I be battling the war within with just one soldier, by myself? I shouldn’t.”
Lane leans on his wife Crystal, his family members and his battle buddies for support. He admits that if he didn’t make the decision to reach out when he needed it most, he may not be here today.
“I rely on other people to encourage me, lift me up and keep me positive, that’s why we work together as a team,” he said. “I know that every step I’m taking, I’m not alone.”
Lane, a Purple Heart recipient, now travels across the country with his wife and service dog Bentley, sharing his story with the public. He engages with Cadets in hopes of being a source of inspiration for them.
In Fort Knox, Ky., he visited CST to meet with both Advanced Camp and Basic Camp regiments. However, Lane didn’t only share his story. He trained alongside Cadets, participating in two obstacle courses and shooting an M4 at the weapons qualification range.
“They’ll see my prosthetics, but then they’ll see more the determination and that’s what brings joy for them,” said Lane. “That same military mindset of supporting their battle [buddies], they’re doing for me, cheering me on and pushing me to go forward.”
He mentioned that his work is just as fun as it is rewarding, noting that one of the best parts is the Cadets’ reactions to his abilities.
“They are blown away, no pun intended,” joked Lane. “It’s really fun to challenge them knowing that I’m about to do the same things they’re about to do. They don’t have any excuses.”
Lane is thankful for the platform he has to share his story, encouraging Cadets with their training while creating lasting impressions on the Army’s future officers.
“I get to tell them how the Army is, how well they took care of me, how they are like a big family and that everything they go through and learn from joining the Army, they are going to be able to grow and be so much better for the rest of their lives.” he said.
Lane explained the importance of creating a sturdy foundation on which Cadets can frame their lives. He uses his past experiences to move forward and achieve his goals.
“Know who you are and build the foundation that you have,” he said. “That foundation will allow you to have that mindset, so if anything does happen that is tragic or seems difficult that you may face in this life, you’ll be able to overcome it. It’s helped me get from the hospital bed to where I’m at now.”
After the accident, doctors told Lane that he’d likely never be able to use prosthetics or speak properly again. Now, not only is he able to walk, run and drive, Lane is also a singer in addition to his career in motivational speaking, performing for and inspiring thousands.
Defying the odds every day, Lane lives by his motto, a saying that the Army taught him, ‘Never give up, never surrender.’
“I’m not disabled. I’m not wounded in any way, I’m just my new self,” he said. “If I could tell the world [one thing] with one voice, it would be that I am a warrior veteran, and every single warrior out there, anyone who has been injured in any capacity, is a warrior and they will always be.”