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A Bump in the Road

On July 17 I did not look much different than any other Soldier as I introduced myself to the 104th Training Division staff. Little did they know that a few hours earlier, I did not know if I would be able to pull on my boots. My broken body was hidden from view, concealed under my uniform. On June 28th, I was on a bicycle ride preparing for the 2021 LoToJa, a one-day, 204-mile bicycle race from Logan, Utah, to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, when I hit a bump in the road. 

I started a short 30-mile ride, and I was only going to be gone an hour and 30 minutes. I had just put new carbon-fiber rims on my bike, the maiden voyage, kind of like the Titanic. I always wear a helmet however, this short ride I briefly considered going without, a split-second decision I have no doubt ended up saving my life.

Col. Jenni’s 1st weekend as the new Chief of Staff, 104th DIV, Joint Base Lewis-McChord

I was fast, enjoying the ride, leaving everything behind… at about 25-30 mph my front tire struck the side of a bump with such force my front wheel ricocheted 90 degrees from the direction of travel. My first thought was this is exactly what I witnessed happening to my brother, next, the sound of my helmet hitting the pavement really loud, and last, this really hurts. I first hit on my left side and completely flipped over with the bike, sideways onto my right side now facing the other direction. My left shoulder took most of the impact, and I came to a rest very close to a “RIP Mary” spray-painted on the ground. 

As I laid there, a bloody mess and laboring to breathe, a young woman came over and asked me if I was OK. I wanted to answer her, however, the only sound coming out of my mouth was, “AHHHH, AHHHH, AHHHH.” After about a minute or so, I was able to speak. I asked if she could see my cell phone and if it was broken. She answered that the phone was ok and still attached to my handlebars. After standing up, I called my wife and asked her to come get me. 

The young woman said the crash was very spectacular and she helped me clean up the yard sale. Both of my earphones popped out and broke apart, a lens popped out of my sunglasses, and it seems like there was something else on the ground. I recognized my body was starting to shut down, and I was going into shock. She walked me over to the parking lot at Timpanogos Park where I was going to wait for my wife. I thanked her and let her know I would be ok. In retrospect, I should have simply called an ambulance. 

Col. Jenni speaks with Capt. Ashley 104th DIV HHC Commander during the icebreaker exercise

I saw a gentleman walking into the parking lot and started following him. I thought this would be great if that were his black truck. As soon as I saw him moving toward the driver’s side, I said, “hey Sir, do you mind giving me a hand?” Turning around and before even looking in my direction, the gentlemen answered, “yes, what do you need?” I asked for a ride to the hospital, and he quickly recognized the extreme conditions and the nature of the request. It turns out this gentleman was also a Veteran and that we had been in Iraq during the same time period. He was a little down on his luck and we were able to help each other. This small act of service brought purpose and meaning into his life. 

The hospital staff said there were likely not any breaks in the areas I was having pain because it takes tremendous pressure to break the upper ribs and scapula. The x-rays would later show two clean breaks of the ribs and my scapula snapped in half into five or six pieces. Seven days later I was back on a stationary bike, three weeks later back on the road, seven weeks later passed the Army Combat Fitness Test, and 11 weeks later I completed the LoToJa in just over 13 hours. 

During extreme circumstances it is often difficult for anyone to see clearly and recognize the dire straits that we find ourselves in, even when it is crystal clear to others. Looking back, none of the physical activities were in the best interest of recovery, and were bad decisions. Sometimes, we all hit a bump or multiple bumps in the road while the Good Lord, your Higher Power, or whatever you may choose to believe, sends others to help. Please be diligent of those Family Members, Soldiers, and friends who might be struggling to see clearly and going through difficult times. Sometimes we are the poor guy or gal laying on the ground, sometimes we are the ones helping them up, sometimes we are both. 

“RIP Mary” Site where Col. Jenni’s bicycle accident happened.

In July 2021, I had to heal personally, physically, and professionally. I was in a difficult place; the last year of brigade command had been difficult, and I am certain I was able to conceal this from most of those around me. One of my mentors, a true American hero and colonel likely to become a general officer, had just passed away and was believed to have taken his own life. As I looked for answers personally and professionally, my family and members of the 104th Team helped in many ways I am sure they were never aware of. Thank you!

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