When Jake Murphy was severely injured by an Explosive Improvised Device (IED) while in Afghanistan in July 2011, fellow soldier Derek McConnell was there to rush him to safety. It was a day destined to change both of their lives forever. At that point they served in the same unit, and had known each other previously throughout their time in the Army, and a couple years later their stories would intertwine again in another remarkable way.
“We were injured on the same day,” Jake recalls. “After I was hit by the IED, Derek got me to the MedEvac. Once I was taken care of, Derek went back out, where shortly after he stepped on two IED’s and was critically wounded. Both of us sustained injuries that day that would claim our legs.”
Both Murphy and McConnell were brought back to the States and eventually both started treatment at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Maryland. As a result of the blast, Jake had lost both of his legs and was in a coma for a month. He had to learn how to use prosthetics and to cope with a traumatic brain injury. But between Jake’s fighting spirit and his unwavering support system, he keeps proving that nothing is impossible, and that being a double-amputee does not have to prevent a person from living an abundant life or giving back to society.
Murphy is a very active contributor to several organizations, participating in fundraising and community awareness events on a regular basis. Unbelievably, his commitment to service compelled him to run the Boston Marathon this year with his hand-cycle; where he successfully and safely crossed the finish line before the bombings occurred.
Moments like those do not slow Jake down though. His focus on making a difference remains unshakeable as always. He is committed to being the best that he can be, and he has long believed that the addition of a service dog could provide some unique and valuable support moving forward.
“Over time I’ve made several inquiries with service dog agencies, but I was surprised at the general lack of assistance I received,” Jake says. “There were a lot of obstacles and I just didn’t feel like I was being welcomed with open arms.” But unbeknownst to Jake, life had a different plan to unite him with a canine comrade.
This past March, Derek McConnell unfortunately passed away while battling complications sustained from his injuries. Before his passing, McConnell had been accepted by Xenia, Ohio organization, 4 Paws For Ability, to receive a service dog. Derek’s intended dog, Gabriel, had already completed his training and the two were scheduled to meet in the coming weeks. A search ensued to find another soldier who would be a good match for Gabriel and his recently trained set of skills.
Amazingly, the same people who identified Derek McConnell as a 4 Paws candidate, found their way to Jake Murphy’s door. In an incredible twist of fate, Jake would now be the one to inherit the service dog originally intended for his brother in arms; the same man that pulled him to safety on that fateful July day in 2011.
Jake is scheduled to meet Gabriel on Monday, June 17th at the 4 Paws training facility in Xenia, Ohio. It will be the first day of class for all June class members. Jake currently lives with his wife Lisa in Silver Spring, MD and is originally from Wellesley, MA. The mission of 4 Paws For Ability is to enrich the lives of veterans from recent conflicts who have lost the use of their limbs or their hearing while in active combat and children with disabilities by the training and placement of quality, task trained service dogs.
“It’s been a heartbreaking yet inspirational journey,” says 4 Paws Founder Karen Shirk. “We look forward to introducing Jake to Gabriel. The sacrifices Derek, Jake and the rest of our military make are absolutely incredible, and it’s a community 4 Paws is honored to serve.”
For additional information or for interview opportunities, contact Whitney Hitt at 937.768.9096 or email to Whitney@4PawsForAbility.org.
(Written by Whitney Hitt)