Life took a dramatic change for United States Marine Corps Corporal Jason Murray in 2004. One year into military life and at the age of 20, Murray began his work day as part of a unit doing a sweep of a four-lane highway in Iraq. He woke up one month later in a military hospital to find that an IED with 40 pounds of explosives had detonated a few feet from him that day, leaving him severely injured and permanently blind.
Murray approached his life out of the Marine Corps the same way he did while he was still enlisted; with a sense of humor and a stringent work ethic. Within two years of his injury, Murray married, bought his first home, learned Braille, completed a blind rehabilitation program, and began his college education, all while undergoing a host of reconstructive surgeries.
Murray credits his recovery and success to God and to a fellow veteran. During his recovery, Murray became friends with a Marine who had been blinded while fighting in Vietnam in 1969. He had gone on from his military service to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling. He now serves as a counselor working with disabled veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs. “I realized my friend had gone to school the hard way, long before the technology we have to help blind people in the classroom,” says Murray. “I realized I had looked at my life and blindness in terms of what I could no longer do, not in terms of what I could do. If he could do it then with such limited resources, I had no excuse not to try now.”
“Transitioning to civilian life was difficult,” says Murray. “I knew I had to look at college as my job now and that’s what got me through. The military, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and ultimately the taxpayers were paying for my rehabilitation, the least I could do was give it everything I could.”
Murray began his education in person at a local junior college. As a wounded warrior and war veteran, his life experiences were radically different from both his peers and his professors. Coupled with his physical disabilities that he feels made others uncomfortable around him, he found the road to his associate’s degree was difficult. “I had a hard time connecting,” he says. “Let’s face it: I’m blind, I have a bunch of tattoos from my military days and I am an opinionated Marine. That can be a lot for some people to handle.”
When it came to his bachelor’s degree, a critical factor for Murray was being able to attend classes online. “Argosy University, Denver allowed me to attend school 100% online,” he says. “I liked that I could take classes anytime, that my wife didn’t have to drive me to school and that I wouldn’t feel like an outsider.”
Murray tackled his studies with fervor, despite the fact that what takes a sighted student an hour to do can take him up to four. “The only person that will ever stop you from reaching your goals in life is you,” said Murray. “I’m so thankful for the self-discipline that the military instilled in me. I made sure I was proactive in reaching out to my professors and disciplined in getting my work done. I had to prove that I could be just as successful as a student who still has their sight.”
Murray, a self-described “average” high school student, graduated with a 3.95 GPA and Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Argosy University, Denver in April of 2010. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Biblical studies at the Colorado Theological Seminary and living life to its fullest. “I’m taking the time to enjoy life now and to raise my family,” says Murray, father of two sons, ages four and one.