Imagine waking up on any given day as a tanker serving in the U.S. Army, deployed in Iraq. Now imagine going off base to perform a patrol, trying to ensure the safety of those nearby. Then imagine every soldiers worst fear; being caught in a life or death situation. Combine all these factors, and then add in the cruelty of it taking place on your 21st birthday, and you have the story of Jerral Hancock, one of our hometown heroes.
Jerral deployed in late 2006 to serve his tour of duty in Iraq. On May 29th, 2007, he woke up on a supposedly easy day; his birthday, which also happened to be Memorial Day. Later on in the day, he received news that his company was to perform a patrol nearby the base. As Jerral’s tank patrolled the dangerous roads of Iraq, often littered with threats in the forms of I.E.D.’s or guerrilla soldiers, disaster struck. Jerral’s tank had triggered an E.F.P. (Explosively Formed Penetrator) as they rolled over the device.
Amongst the chaos and danger, his tank had been struck with incredible force; large pieces of shrapnel piercing the 6 inch thick steel armor. The explosion also caused oils within the tank to catch fire, creating extreme danger within the cab of the tank. This cab was where Jerral and his comrades struggled to survive. While fading in and out of consciousness, Jerral remained within the burning tank for 90 minutes as his fellow soldiers struggled to get him out. While in the tank, Jerral sustained massive injuries including burns on most of his body, shrapnel piercing his spinal cord and paralyzing him from the chest down, and the tragic loss of his left arm.
As he struggled and fought to recover, one thing became apparent; the road ahead would be a long and difficult one at best. After leaving the hospital and returning home, the V.A. made several modifications to Jerral’s home. Despite having made these modifications, life is still a struggle for him due to shotty craftsmanship and not enough space to allow him to live a more comfortable life.
Despite all of his struggles and challenges, Jerral is also faced with raising two children who he feels “have sacrificed more than I have.” With his tragic accident and continuous struggle to perform every day tasks within his home and the challenge of raising two children, the effort has given more motivation than ever to reach the goal of the “Operation all the way home” to build Jerral and his family a new home.
We salute and admire both organizations for their amazing fortitude and unrelenting passion for Jerral!
The Whole Patriot