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The Bionic Man F

or the first assignment in his public speaking class last fall, 30-year-old Jeff Landay was instructed to introduce himself to his Folsom Lake College (FLC) classmates via a three-minute presentation. He began by showing a startling photo of himself taken in 2006 as a patient at Bethesda Naval Hospital. To him, this one snapshot encapsulated what he had endured and would also serve to motivate him for what was to come. Following a tumultuous childhood, Jeff enlisted in the United States Marine Corps immediately upon graduating from Oak Ridge High School in 2004. In January 2006, his Camp Pendleton-based 3/5 unit was deployed half a world away to Fallujah, Iraq. During a routine patrol on May 21, 2006, the Humvee he was traveling in struck a roadside bomb that left one member of his platoon dead and seriously wounded three others. Jeff was barely alive, but somehow summoned the strength to drive the battered vehicle out of harm’s way.

10 Los Rios Matters | SPRING 2017

“They all thought that was Jeff ’s last act, to get that truck back to safety to get his comrades out,” his mother, Michelle Landay, said. Marine Cpl. Jeff Landay was transported to a hospital in Baghdad, then to Germany, and eventually back to the States. Jeff was in a coma for nearly a month having suffered a traumatic brain injury in which they had to remove the left side of his skull to alleviate the swelling. “By every account, I should have died. Technically, I was clinically dead three times,” Jeff recalls. Upon his hospital release and at the age of 19, Jeff returned to Citrus Heights and faced a long recovery that included relearning to speak, struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the physical and emotional toll of a cumulative 52 surgeries to repair his injuries. The battle scars on his body became his badges of pride alongside the three Purple Hearts he had been awarded for his service to his country. It was also during this time that Jeff began taking classes at Folsom Lake College using education benefits provided by the G.I. Bill and with additional support from the college’s Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) department. Jeff quickly endeared himself to students and staff with his combination of brutal honesty and unbeatable optimism. The natural class clown also found comradery and compassion from other student veterans that frequented FLC’s Veterans Success Center (VSC). “Jeff ’s ability to look beyond his injuries and stay focused on the future inspires everyone he comes into contact with…including myself!” shared VSC staff member and fellow veteran Ken Walker. “When students get overwhelmed, they can always think about how Jeff has the same commitments and does not give up or even skip a beat. He inspires others to stay in the fight and press on!” It was also at FLC in that same communications course where he was tasked to tell his story that he discovered he had a knack for public speaking. After receiving an associate degree in Social & Behavioral Sciences in December 2015, he returned to FLC to earn a second degree in Communication Studies. He plans to transfer to Sacramento State and pursue a career as a motivational speaker to hopefully inspire veterans and civilians alike. “We all have struggles,” notes Jeff. It was that first public speaking engagement that gave him the confidence to share his inspiring story with others. When asked who would play him if his story one day gets the Hollywood treatment, Jeff said with a laugh, “Ryan Reynolds, because it would have to be someone pretty.” To donate to the Veterans Success Center or other FLC programs, go to www.flc.losrios.edu/give.

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The second edition of Los Rios Matters is here! We hope you enjoy all the wonderful things happening at CRC and around the Los Rios district...

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