Iraq veteran amputee turns to car racing for therapy

News

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) Adrenaline, competition and teamwork are all things that Jon Winker strived for during his time with the Army National Guard.

He would deploy to Iraq in 2009, when tragedy struck.

“I got run over by an MRAP, an armored gun truck. They weigh about 14 tons,” Winker said. “It ended up riding up my left leg onto my thigh before another soldier could get the vehicle to stop.”

Able to salvage his leg, his recovery wouldn’t be easy.

“The big thing with it was the pain was just excruciating. It definitely put me into a severe depression,” Winker said. “When it came out that the doctors were recommending the amputation, at that time I was honestly ready for it. I was pretty much asking for it at that point. So in 2013, I ended up having the amputation of my left leg below the knee.”

His dream of making the military his career would end, as he was medically discharged in 2013.

“Which was a little disheartening to have my career cut short in that manner,” Winker said. “I used to do sports and running and so forth, and a lot of that stuff was either very difficult to do or almost impossible at the time. One of the things that I found that I was able to continue to do was still drive a car.”

Making good out of a bad situation, Jon transitioned into civilian life by beginning an internship at Baycom in Green Bay.

Then at the beginning of 2019, he co-founded Resilience Racing – a veteran-led race team that aims to help others like himself.

“[To] show other disabled vets that there is life after severe injuries,” Winker said. “I personally had seen what motor sports could do in terms of recovery and so forth, and kind of like that non-clinical therapy piece for veterans. The great thing about racing is you’re able to take a driver with disabilities, or is using hand controls, and stick them in a car and they can race against an able-bodied driver.”

For those missing a limb like Jon, it requires personalized hand controls.

“That allow for gas, brake, clutch, shifting, all without having your hands leave the steering wheel,” Winker said.

Something that he hopes to raise more money for to help his team compete with all the others.

“[I’m] just trying to build a little bit of a community here and get our mission out there to others,” Winker said.

Resilience Racing had their debut race on July 13th and 14th at Indy Motor Speedway. It was a 20-hour endurance race.

All veterans interested in learning more can email Jon at Jon@ResilienceRacing.com

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories