Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Clayton Jensen, who served six tours of duty combined in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Born in 1976, Clayton Jensen was active in soccer during his childhood. During his trip to Tokyo for the international tournament, he spent time with a Japanese host family. While there, he honed a skill he’d been toying with since elementary school—linguistics. One of Jensen’s elementary school teachers taught Jensen Japanese, and he quickly displayed a talent for languages by the fifth grade.
During his junior year of high school, Jensen’s vocation interest pointed toward a military career. Jensen had little interest in going to college for four years. He met with Army recruiters, since he was originally interested in the Army’s Ranger Indoctrination Program and was looking into becoming a special forces medic.
An Army recruiter steered Jensen towards the Defense Language Aptitude Battery. Jensen stated fondly of the recruiter, “I owe that guy a beer.” The recruiter put him on the path to becoming a signals intelligence electronic warfare cryptologic linguist and a member of special operations.
Jensen completed Airborne School and Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, to learn Spanish. By 1998, the 21-year-old Jensen reported to Fort Bragg and signed in with an intelligence unit of the 82nd Airborne Division. He immediately deployed to the Caribbean and South America as a police interceptor.
Following 9/11, Jensen served six tours of combat duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan with the 7th Special Forces Group. During one of these tours, Jensen suffered a brain injury due to shrapnel from an incoming missile that nearly hit him while he was in a Blackhawk helicopter. Jensen did not know the extent of his injuries until after the helicopter crashed, and he discovered that he had shrapnel in his leg and had fractured both his elbows and his T-6 vertebrae upon landing. Despite these injuries, he pushed through the pain and continued with his assignments. He later spent two and a half years in a rehabilitation center. Today, Jensen continues to suffer from short-term memory loss.
After his service, Jensen got involved with the Wounded Warrior Project to help other Veterans who suffer from injuries similar to his own.
Jensen lives at his home in Marshalltown, Iowa.
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Writer: Alex Boucher
Editor: Katherine Berman and Julia Pack
Fact checker: Lia Sansoucy