9/11 Resonates With Two GCU Students Who 'Fell in Love in War'

By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau

Jason Bedore walks with a limp, favoring the left knee he protects under a lightweight black brace. The added protection helps his mobility, though he still has no sensation from the joint down to his toes.

Students at Grand Canyon University notice his slight hobble as he moves between classes. Those who are unfamiliar with Bedore's service as an Army staff sergeant might mistake it for a football injury. A freshman randomly approached him the first day of the fall semester and asked if it would be all right to pray for his “banged up” knee.

Moments like that, Bedore said, have helped him feel more comfortable transitioning into college courses on his way toward a bachelor’s degree in physical education.

“It’s been a great experience from the first day in class,” said Bedore, who served in the Army for nearly 10 years, including a 2007 deployment to Iraq that left him badly wounded in a roadside bombing.

“My professors are flexible with me,” Bedore said. “Due to my injuries, I have quite a few appointments with the VA.”

Bedore and his wife, Samantha, a fellow Army veteran whom he met while they were both stationed in Iraq, transferred to GCU last spring. Their classes overlap at times. They run into each other at the campus Veterans Center, where Samantha — a pre-physical therapy major — completes much of her work as treasurer of the new campus chapter of Student Veterans of America.

On Tuesday, the couple joined nearly 50 GCU student volunteers to plant more than 3,000 American flags on the Quad in front of GCU Arena in advance of today’s 9/11 memorial service. The flags represented each victim of the terrorist attacks of 2001, in addition to 147 Arizonans killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I always like seeing that involvement,” said Jason, who maneuvered through hundreds of American flags, helping hand them off to other volunteers to kneel down to stick into the turf.

Samantha, 23, joined the Army while she was in high school. She “fell in love in war.” Back home, she supported Jason through the rigors of post-traumatic stress disorder and physical therapy, helping him through uneasy times to eventually find her way to GCU.

The flags, she said, served as a reminder about what binds her family and everyone together as Americans.

“I think it symbolizes who we are,” she said.

Remembering 9/11

Jason Bedore remembered seeing the events of Sept. 11 unfold on television with his fellow Army soldiers at a base in Virginia. He recalled feeling excited to deploy with his fellow troops, although he was still apprehensive about war.

“It kind of hit me hard,” said Bedore, now 30. “When I left home, my mom said, ‘Don’t go into the military, we’ll go to war – you’ll see.’ She was right.”

Bedore participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and returned, he said, for four more combat tours – including the 2007 tour in which he was seriously wounded.

Through multiple surgeries, two screws, one pin, a muscle graft and several torn ligaments, Bedore understood he might never walk or run again. But the native of Eagle Pass, Texas fought through physical therapy and returned to Iraq nearly two years later.

He met Samantha in 2009 and they married in 2010, the same year he seriously reinjured his knee ducking out of harm’s way during a firefight. The second incident left his knee in even worse shape.

Bedore said he’s now prepared to have his leg amputated and move forward with a prosthetic limb.

“I’ve dealt with it,” said Bedore, who received a Purple Heart in 2012. “I know what tools I need to deal with daily life.”

“When this wheel falls off completely, I’m ready for it.”

'He's my inspiration'

Samantha Bedore said her husband has routinely proved doctors wrong.

The couple heeded warning after warning that Jason’s brain injury was severe enough to prevent him from going back to school. He struggled to remember things. At first, Samantha served as Jason’s note-taker, helping him with the essentials of his schoolwork as he continued through weekly brain-training programs and other therapy for his injuries.

Jason started in GCU’s nursing program but then decided he’d work toward a physical education degree in the hope of becoming a high school P.E. teacher. He said always has enjoyed serving as a mentor and coach to young people.

For Samantha, the path to GCU led through Jason. She said helping him through his injuries, and seeing his strength to work his way back, helped her understand her professional calling.

“I want to help people like he’s been helped,” Samantha said. “He’s my inspiration to want to be a physical therapist.”

Today, a team of nearly 30 volunteers planned to wrap up renovations to the Bedore house in Goodyear as part of a nationwide commitment to improving housing for veterans. They are among more than 350 families selected for home repairs provided through the Home Depot Foundation’s Celebration of Service effort, a community service initiative that runs until Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

Crews installed grip-bars in the bathroom and an evened paver walkway out front, in addition to little upgrades such as new ceiling fans, according to Chris Helmuth, vice president of HandsOn Greater Phoenix, the local nonprofit working with Home Depot Foundation on the Bedore home project.

The upgrades are designed to remove “trip hazards” and to help Jason get around a little easier. Helmuth said renovations include raised planter boxes in the back yard so Jason could more comfortably tend to the family’s vegetable garden with daughters Karissa, 2, and Brianna, 7.

Jason said he awoke early this morning, “woke up his leg,” saw the workers showing up to wrap up the projects on his home, and realized how blessed he felt.

“It shows how we stand as a country,” Bedore said. “It’s uplifting, and at the same time I feel calmed.”

Contact Michael Ferraresi at 639.7030 or [email protected].


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