Jay Leno surprises a soldier wounded by a suicide bomber

Sceenshot from the today show video below.

By Brett Gillin

Jay Leno may have retired and walked away from the Tonight Show, but he hasn’t walked away from some of his passions. Namely, a love of cars, and a penchant for honoring those who give everything in service to this country. This week, Jay Leno continued to give back to our veterans in a very special way. Thanks to an appearance on the Today Show, Jay Leno met Corporal Ethan Laberge, and gave him the ride of a lifetime.

Cpl. Ethan Laberge was picked out of a group of wounded warriors at random, but you would be hard pressed to find a more deserving soldier, and one that fits so well with what Jay Leno was looking to do. According to this story in Torque News, Cpl. Laberge was stationed in Afghanistan and working a regular foot patrol. He stopped to converse with some people on the side of the road, when things went terribly awry.

A suicide bomber drove up to Cpl. Laberge and detonated himself. The blast killed two US soldiers that Cpl. Laberge was patrolling with and seriously injured Laberge. Cpl. Laberge suffered severe injuries to both of his legs, one of his arms, and a serious head injury that has caused ongoing memory problems. To this date, Cpl. Laberge has undergone 10 surgeries to repair the damage.

Popular Military dug a little deeper and spoke with another soldier who served with Cpl. Laberge in Afghanistan. That soldier wishes to remain anonymous, but detailed the unfortunate conditions that Cpl. Laberge and his fellow soldiers faced in Afghanistan. The soldier mentioned that they had patrolled in the Patika Province, only 300 meters from Pakistan, in an area which they were not supposed to patrol. The command leadership received 3 General Letters of Reprimand during the deployment, and the soldier detailed that there were mass casualties taken during the fight due to the poor leadership there.

The soldier went on to detail his frustration with what he sees as ever-changing rules, stating that it almost takes “an act of congress to roll outside the wire.”  His frustration grew when he stated that due to the strict Rules of Engagement, the soldiers weren’t even able to round up the people responsible for the attack, as their battalion commander did not allow the soldiers to cross the street to detain them. Although these details could not be independently verified, the fact remains that Cpl. Laberge was seriously wounded during that attack, and his selection to meet Jay Leno was definitely deserved.

When Leno and Laberge sat down, they quickly discovered that they had something in common: a love for automobiles. According to this story on IJReview, Leno said “he and Leberge were quickly able to find common ground in their love of cars, and Leno had just the thing for Leberge: a ride in a 2015 Dodge SRT Hellcat.”

Leno asked if Laberge wanted to take a ride in the modern-day muscle car, and was met with “Hell yeah!” as his response. The two jumped in the car and cruised around roads near Laberge’s army post. They stopped to grab a bite to eat, when Leno asked some more questions about how Laberge was recovering from his injury.

“Where I’m sitting now, I don’t know exactly how well I’ll recover,” Laberge told Leno. He went on to say that he finds himself struggling now and again, until his friends and family help him make it through the roughest of times.

Leno and Laberge hopped back in the car to return to the Army post, when Leno sprung an enormous surprise on him. Laberge told Leno “That was awesome… I wouldn’t mind having one of those.” Leno responded by flipping Laberge the keys to the car, stating “It’s yours. America loves you. Thank you buddy. Have a lot of fun. Don’t get any tickets.”

Laberge joked that he couldn’t promise to remain ticket free, but one thing is for certain: Jay Leno made his day.

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  • Brett Gillin is a journalist and fiction writer based in South Florida. Many of his friends and family members have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, as Police Officers, and first responders. Gillin is currently working on several screenplays, and his writings have been published in numerous national and international publications and websites.

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