On Wednesday, midfielder Chris Pontius and defender James Riley paid a visit to a huge D.C. United fan, Jason Pak, who landed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after a deployment to Afghanistan. On November 4, 2012 in Zangabad, Pak went on foot patrol with his unit when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosion occurred. Pak was the only one affected, taking the brunt of the blast.
“I can’t say enough about this young man – he’s just phenomenal,” said Riley. “Phenomenal guy, phenomenal spirit despite what happened to him – [he lost] both legs and two fingers… he’s the elite of the elite and you can see it with how he carries himself despite what’s happened to him.”
Honor to meet Jason today. A true hero for this country and all around great guy. instagram.com/p/X8MUJOOejf/— Chris Pontius (@ChrisPontius13) April 10, 2013
A ranger following in the footsteps of his father, Pak attended West Point and played soccer there before being deployed. At Walter Reed, Pak goes through two hours of intense physical therapy in the morning, all while keeping a good spirit.
“They work him pretty hard, so Chris [Pontius] and I came to the conclusion that we can’t complain about training anymore when you have a guy that would give everything to run with his two legs and stay on the field night and day if he could,” said Riley.
Pak will be in attendance at Saturday’s game against the New York Red Bulls and will visit the team in the locker room. He hopes to carve out a new career path as a motivational speaker for those who have experienced similar trauma, and Riley emphasized that it was a meeting that will not soon be forgotten.
“We visited with him for an hour and a half, two hours, with just pure conversation – everything from what happened to him to what he plans on doing now to what he was doing before to how he watches us play.
“Chris and I both agree that we want it to be a lasting relationship where we can keep in touch,” added Riley. “He’s going to stay in the area, his parents are going to stay in the area. He’s a person who definitely carries himself well, is very well-spoken, but can also hang out, so we’re looking forward to the time where we can all get together once he’s out of the rehab part and can get into the city to go out to dinner. We definitely want to have more of a lasting relationship than kind of a one-off. It was too special of a moment, too special of an interaction to just fizzle and be the end of it.”