UW-L Athletics

Jason Church

UW-L Alum Jason Church,’ 11, a political science major, played football at UW-L.

Alum to receive purple heart at UW-L’s Nov. 10 football game

A UW-La Crosse alum who sustained serious injuries while serving in Afghanistan will be awarded the purple heart as part of a tribute to veterans during UW-L’s last home football game Nov. 10.

UW-L Alum Jason Church,’ 11, a political science major, lost both of his legs below the knee after an IED explosion in a small village in Afghanistan. Church, a U.S. Army Second Lt., has since undergone 18 surgeries and is being fitted for prosthetics. During the half time show, Church’s father, Col. David Church, will present him with the purple heart. More than 70 UW-L reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets will be on the field to support Church.

“It’s one of those awards you never want to receive,” says Church, regarding the honor bestowed upon those wounded or killed in service.

Yet he says the outcome could have been worse and he is grateful to be here to receive it in the company of family, friends and the university community.

“The majority of the time, people who receive this award aren’t there to receive it,” he says. “It’s bitter sweet on my end. I guess, in a way, I’m lucky.”

Church chose to receive his purple heart at UW-L because he has good memories of playing football and studying political science on the campus.

The special recognition is part of a series of veterans-related activities surrounding Veterans Day Nov. 11 and UW-L’s Freedom Week, Nov. 5-11. Other events during the week include an art exhibit at UW-L’s Murphy Library, honoring the Armed Services; a 24-hour veteran tribute run; a flag football tournament; and the second annual breakfast for all area veterans and their spouses.

UW-L Athletics aims to pack the Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex with veterans for the Nov. 10 game against UW-Whitewater. All current and former members of the Armed Services, along with a guest, will be admitted to the game free of charge, courtesy of LHI Founder and CEO Don Weber and his wife, Roxanne. Veterans and current service members must present a military ID. For a complete list of ticket distribution locations visit www.uwlathletics.com/Veterans.

Marine Cpl. Gauge Griffin

Marine Cpl. Gauge Griffin, will also honored during the game.

“If you think about it, less than one percent of the population has served (in the Armed Services) and they carry 100 percent of the responsibility for our freedom,” says Don Weber. “We encourage as many veterans and their families to participate.”


Game kickoff is at 1:10 p.m. at the Roger Harring Stadium at Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex. The UW-L Student Veterans Association will have a tailgate game day tent from 10 a.m. until game time. A series of pre-game recognitions include: a presentation of the flag by the ROTC Color Guard, an aerial flyover, the live-playing of “Taps,” a 21-gun salute and a recognition of all service members in attendance.

Also, during the pre-game recognition ceremony, another local veteran, Marine Cpl. Gauge Griffin, will be honored. Griffin, a recent graduate of Galesville-Ettrick-Trempealeau High School, lost his left leg below the knee and sustained other injuries after stepping on an IED during a routine patrol. He also had a severe case of traumatic brain injury, prompting doctors to remove a portion of his skull plate to allow the brain to swell. He was on life support for 46 days and in a coma for 120 days.

Lt. Jason Church with his parents

Church’s father, Col. David Church, Second Lt. Jason Church and Church’s mother, Barb Church.

“What we do in the Athletic Department involves tough people doing hard things. But it’s not exactly what these men and women do to fight for our country,” says Josh Whitman, UW-L’s director of athletics. “Why we are able to put the flag up and go play our games is because of the freedom provided to us by the men and women of the armed services.”


Weber and Whitman encouraged people to turn out to show their support of the sacrifices made by these young men and women. All event donations will go to support the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization devoted to honoring and empowering wounded warriors. UW-L’s Freedom Week is organized in conjunction with the UW-L Foundation, the Freedom Honor Flight and Logistics Health.

Check out this video from WEAU.com on Jason Church’s first visit home after his injury


Activities in celebration of Veterans Day and UW-L Freedom Week

Art Exhibit
An art exhibit honoring members of the Armed Services will be on display Nov. 5-11 at UW-L’s Murphy Library. Find more at: http://www.facebook.com/UwLaCrosseStudentVeteransAssociation?fref=ts

Veteran Tribute Run – Nov. 10
Beginning midnight Saturday, Nov. 10, the UW-L Student Veteran Association will sponsor a 24-hour tribute run/walk at the Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex. From midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday, at least one UW-L student veteran will be on the stadium track at all times walking or running as a tribute to fallen members of the Armed Services. Anyone is welcome to join in the event.

Freedom Honor Flight Veterans Breakfast – Nov. 11
The Second Annual Freedom Honor Flight Veterans Breakfast will be on Veterans Day, Sunday, Nov. 11 at UW-L’s Mitchell Hall Fieldhouse. Doors open at 8 a.m. UW-L student-athletes and ROTC cadets will serve a free breakfast to all veterans and their guests beginning at 10 a.m. Prior to the breakfast, a brief memorial ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial Monument outside Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex. UW-L Alum Jason Church will be one of the featured speakers during the breakfast. For reservations call 784.1015.

Flag Football Tournament – Nov. 11
UW-L Student Veteran Association will also host a flag football tournament for veteran students in the afternoon Sunday, Nov. 11, at the Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex. Cost to participate is $10 dollars per team. All proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Foundation. Find more on Facebook by searching UwLaCrosseStudentVeteransAssociation

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