To honor the Army Medic who helped save his life, Jason Austin sent his Purple Heart into space.
On April 13, 2007, SFC Jason Austin, U.S. Army (Ret), was a passenger in a vehicle hit by two roadside bombs. “I clearly remember when the first one went off. I remember the flash, felt the heat and the immense pressure. I don’t remember the second bomb, nor the next year of my life.”
Jason was told he went into respiratory arrest eight times on the flight to Germany to receive care.
“That was when life ended, and life began for me.” (To hear more of Jason’s story, check out his video.)
Jason is a recipient of The Purple Heart Medal, awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy, as well as posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.
Fast forward, Jason is at dinner with his son and Astronaut Chris Cassidy, U.S. Navy SEAL and current Commander of the International Space Station. After getting to know Chris, Jason knew there was an opportunity to honor the person who saved his life that fateful day in 2007 – Corporal Rachael Hugo.
Jason’s injuries were severe, resulting in him spending approximately 900 days in various hospitals and rehab centers.
“Corporal Hugo convinced me to stop fighting my injuries and let her take care of me so I could receive care,” says Jason. “I survived because of her.”
She was awarded for her actions that day.
Cpl. Rachael Hugo insisted on going out with troops even when she could have stayed on base. According to those who knew her best, she was a kind, hardworking person who adamantly volunteered to go out on missions. She believed in serving others and had a passion for caring for the wounded.
“Several months later, I found out from one the of Lieutenants from her unit that she was killed in action,” says Jason. “She was the medic, my medic, who saved my life, and probably several others.”
“I wanted to do something to recognize her.”
The Purple Heart into the Heavens
Through a mutual friend, Jason and his son received a private tour of the NASA astronaut training facility and met Chris Cassidy. After the tour, they decided to go to dinner.
“I told Chris the story, how I earned the Purple Heart, and about my medic,” says Jason. “When I asked if he would take my medal with him, he was all in.”
Cassidy did not realize Jason was in the military, nor did he know anything about his story. After he heard the details, he told Jason he would be honored to take the Purple Heart with him on his upcoming ISS command.
“We think of space as a gateway to heaven,” says Jason. “I know that is where she is.”
Cassidy was overwhelmed by Jason’s story, and will take pictures and videos of his Purple Heart while he is on the ISS. Once he returns it to Jason, there will also be a Certificate of Authentication with all the statistics of it traveling on the International Space Station.
“I’ll be framing it when I get it back,” says Jason. “It’s hard for me to talk about what happened that day. Honoring Corporal Hugo in any way is important to me.”
August 7th is National Purple Heart Day. Please take a moment to pause, remember and honor the brave men and women who were wounded on the battlefield or paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives. Less than one percent of the population serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. They pay a steep price to keep our borders safe and our nation free.
Heroes on the Water is grateful for every one of these courageous people. Take a moment to join us in paying tribute to the members of our U.S. Armed Forces, veterans, and first responders. Their courage is unmatched, and their sacrifice is always remembered.