by Kenneth A. Stewart
Students from the Naval Postgraduate School and nearby Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) joined the regional community in welcoming Army Sgt. Brian Jergens and family to their new home during a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Hollister, Calif., Dec. 12.
The home was donated by Homes for Troops, a national non-profit organization founded in 2004, and was built by members of the local community including a cadre of volunteers from both NPS and DLIFLC. Homes for Troops has built and donated 155 homes in the last 10 years to wounded service members.
While deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, Jergens was severely injured by a roadside bomb in the Uruzgan Province. The improvised explosive device that ripped through his vehicle blew off both his legs below the knee, broke his neck, and injured his brain, hearing and internal organs.
Despite the trauma, or perhaps because of it, Jergens remembers nothing of the long road home that took him from field hospitals and medical centers in Afghanistan to Landstuhl, Germany and then to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. In fact, he does not remember Afghanistan at all.
“I don’t remember what happened until I look down,” quipped Jergens with his ever-present smile and infectiously positive attitude.
Jergens and his wife are working hard to reclaim their lives and to raise their young family in Hollister, and the community has welcomed them with open arms. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by the mayor, the chief of police, city council members, a local Boy Scout troop, members of the Patriot Guard Riders, and even Santa Claus himself.
NPS Department of Defense Analysis student, U.S. Air Force Maj. Jeff McMaster of Fort Worth, Texas, was one of many volunteers to work on the Jergens family home.
“It was a great chance to give back to someone who has sacrificed so much, someone who maintains a great attitude and who is such an inspiration despite the severity of his injuries. It was a privilege,” McMaster said.
Army Maj. Alex Williams, also in the defense analysis program, coordinated much of the NPS contributions to the volunteer effort for Jergens.
“All of us have friends, colleagues and comrades who have been injured or damaged in some capacity,” said Williams. “It’s kind of cathartic for us to see that people do get better. The courage of this Soldier and his wife is truly inspiring … it puts your own problems into perspective.
“When all of the fanfare dies down and these people start getting back to their daily lives, things are going to be very difficult. These Soldiers need to know that they have somewhere to turn, that there are people out there that they can contact. We are in this for the long haul,” Williams added.