Menomonie veteran to receive NCAA Inspiration Award - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Menomonie veteran to receive NCAA Inspiration Award


La Crosse (Press Release) - United States Army First Lieutenant and former University of Wisconsin-La Crosse football player Jason Church has been named the recipient of the 2014 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Inspiration Award.

The NCAA Inspiration Award is presented to a coach or administrator currently associated with intercollegiate athletics, or to a current or former varsity letter-winner at an NCAA institution who, when confronted with a life-altering situation used perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome the event and now serves as a role model to give hope and inspiration to others in similar situations.

"I am truly honored to be the recipient of 2014 NCAA Inspiration Award," said Lt. Church. "It is truly an award that humbles me. I thank my family for the tremendous support that they have given me over the past year. I would also like to thank the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, the athletic department, the football team, the political science department and the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program that gave me the opportunity to excel as a Student-Athlete-Cadet. Without all of those pieces I wouldn't be the person I am today."

Lt. Church will receive his award at the NCAA's Honors Celebration Saturday, January 17 as part of the 2014 NCAA Convention in San Diego, California. The NCAA's Honors Celebration covers the Theodore Roosevelt Award; Today's Top Ten Awards, the Silver Anniversary Awards, the Award of Valor, and the Inspiration Award.

A 2011 graduate of UW-L, Lt. Church was a member of the Eagles' football squad and a cadet in the ROTC. In May 2012, he joined his Striker Battalion in Afghanistan. Several months later, on August 23, he was on a dismounted patrol in an abandoned village when an IED explosion caused him severe injury, leaving him without either leg below the knee.

Lt. Church was evacuated, and three days later, he arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center outside Washington, D.C. Since arriving at Walter Reed, he has undergone more than 20 surgeries.

After sustaining his injury, Lt. Church elected to receive his Purple Heart during halftime of UW-L's football game against UW-Whitewater November 10, 2012 at Roger Harring Stadium at Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex. He wanted to receive his Purple Heart as a testament to the impact UW-L and the La Crosse community has had on his life.

"I again would like to stress thanks to the University and city of La Crosse that I called home for four years," said Church, a native of Menomonie, Wisconsin. "It is truly one of the best experiences of my life. Thank you."

Lt. Church's father, Colonel David Church, presented the Purple Heart to his son during the halftime ceremony last year. Colonel Church has served in the U.S. Army Reserve and been a service member for 29 years. More than 70 UW-La Crosse ROTC Cadets were on the field to support Lt. Church while he received his Purple Heart.

"I hope to continue to inspire those who encounter me," said Lt. Church. "I have been fortunate to travel around the country and speak about standing up to adversity." He continues to stay at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. "I will medically retire from the military in a few months and I hope to go on to graduate school and continue to pursue my education," added Church.


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