It happened in a flash and changed Jason Redman’s life forever.
Redman — a lieutenant on a Navy SEAL team — and his assault squad were searching for an Al-Qaeda operative in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2007 when they were ambushed. Redman’s left elbow nearly exploded when two rounds tore through his arm. As the team retreated for cover, another round tripped through the right side of his face, shattering his jaw and tearing off half his nose as it exited.
Nobody would have questioned Redman had he chose to let that moment ruin his life.
Instead, Redman pushed forward and started several organizations designed to help wounded veterans.
Now, he’s receiving the Red Bandanna Hero Award for his efforts.
Named for Welles Remy Crowther — “The Man in the Red Bandanna” who rescued more than a dozen victims of the World Trade Center attacks — the award pays tribute to the “everyday hero who exemplifies the American Spirit and defines us as a nation,” according to a news release. It is given by the American Heroes Channel and the Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust, and the winner gets to donate $10,000 to the charity of his or her choice.
Redman will receive the honor during an Oct. 27 ESPN broadcast of the Boston College-Florida State football game. And he will be featured on an American Heroes Channel story about the award on Oct. 28.
“Before I was wounded, I wanted to stay in the Navy for 30 years and become the commander of a SEAL Team,” said Redman, who lives in Virginia Beach. “It’s amazing how life turns on a dime and unfolds right in front of you.”
Redman is the CEO and founder of Combat Wounded Coalition and Wounded Wear. He also has a speaking and consulting firm called SOF Spoken. With Old Dominion University he is creating the Overcome Academy, which will help military men and women returning to civilian life. All operate under the Combat Wounded Coalition umbrella, which he started with his wife, Erica.
“If anybody should have the light shine on them, it’s him,” said Kevin Gaydosh of O’Brien et al. Advertising in Virginia Beach, which supports Redman on some of his projects. “Talk about an inspiration. We certainly believe in him and what he’s trying to do.
“You have to admire a guy like this.”
Redman, 42, also has written a book, “The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader,” and will appear in an upcoming film about Navy SEALS. He recently had a role in an episode of the Hawaii Five-O television series.
“Some people suffer through a bad event and stay in that spot,” said Redman, who joined the Navy in 1992 and finished SEAL training three years later. “Others push and drive forward by learning and growing.
“But no, if you told me after I was wounded that I would have a book, a non-profit, that I’d be speaking and acting, I would say no and that you needed an instant drug test.”
Redman barely survived his injuries because of blood loss, and doctors initially thought he would lose his arm because of the injuries to the elbow. Forty surgeries, thousands of stitches, hundreds of staples, and countless hours of rehabilitation helped him regain some normalcy.
But progress was slow.
“Like so many wounded warriors, I was broke,” said the father of three children. “I was used to making things happen, and it wasn’t as fast as I wanted.”
Redman admits that he let himself go. He stopped working out and wasn’t eating right. He drank more than he should have. But a visit to the doctor changed all that.
“He told me I would die of a heart attack,” Redman said. “My family has a history of heart disease and high cholesterol, so it was all there.”
“Now I’m pretty much on a fitness quest.”
Back on track, Redman is excited about the award he said belongs to all those he’s trying to help.
“Every morning I wake up I’m thankful I have another day,” said Redman, who retired from the Navy in 2013. “If I die today, because I’m already living on borrowed time, I know that I did it right today.
“Most of us have one shot in this life. I got a second chance.”