Triumph over tragedy: Estes shares life-changing story with Sheppard

  • Published
  • By Khirstia Sheffield
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – At 25 years old, his life changed forever.

After getting hit from behind by a 3-time DUI offender racing down the highway at 120 mph, Jared Estes, a burn survivor resilience trainer, lost his wife of six months and endured burns that consumed 50% of his body. Distraught and lost without his wife, Estes spent the next three years battling against his own will. He experienced over 50 surgeries, a two-week coma and physical therapy where he had to relearn how to live and be independent.

Despite his trials, Estes stands strong to send a message of resiliency. He made a choice to not only get back up from his losses, but to fire back.

“Life is going to knock us down, and when we’re down, life will knock us down some more,” Estes said. “We have to do more than get back up. We have to get back up and fire back and take a few shots of our own.”

As a part of the Get Your Wings Up campaign that promotes resiliency, positivity and personal growth in the workplace, the 82nd Training Wing leadership thought it would be important for members of the Air Force to understand that circumstances shouldn’t define them, but only push them to be better versions of themselves. He shared his story with personnel at Sheppard AFB Oct. 7, 2020.

Tired of being a victim to his circumstances, Estes took charge of his life by rebelling against human instinct. Instead of focusing on himself and being consumed by self-pity, Estes used his experiences to help take care of others.

“We don’t have to be a victim to our circumstances,” Estes said. “We can be masters of those circumstances and take all those things we’ve gone through and use them to find ourselves and propel us into the next chapter of our lives.”

It’s no secret that life is full of challenges, but it’s important that through those challenges individuals remain resilient and steadfast. Estes emphasizes five resiliency weapons members of the Air Force can use to combat the trials life may throw their way. These weapons consist of grace, perspective, gratitude, letting go and teamwork.

Before individuals can use these weapons, Estes emphasized the importance in resisting self-pity.

 “When we start to allow self-pity, it will convince us that we have it worse than everyone else. None of that is true, it just happens to be our season. Our whole lives will be filled with darkness and light, but when we reject that first initial instinct to make everything about us and focus that same energy on helping others, that’s when we win,” he said.

Outside of rejecting self-pity, Estes uses grace as the first weapon against the trials we may face. Grace is equal parts of kindness, patience and forgiveness.

“As bad as we may feel like we have it, the person sitting next to us might be in a darker season,” he said. “A smile or just a little kindness can go a long way.”

The next weapon Estes emphasizes is the weapon of perspective. When people endure these trying circumstances they gain the true gift of perspective that makes those trivial things way more transparent and choices much clearer.

After the weapon of perspective, Estes zoomed in on the weapon of gratitude.

“There are no hypotheticals in life,” he said. “There’s only who we are in that moment. Don’t let those ‘what if’s’ hijack your happiness. It’s important to be grateful for every moment that we have.”

Consumed by who he believed he was before the incident and the loss of his wife, Estes had a hard time letting go of the past, but he said the weapon of letting go pushed him to be more confident and helped him focus on being the best version of who he is now.

He was fearful of the life that was ahead of him, a life without his wife and a life with a different body that came with its own complications, but that fear was his driving force.

“Every time we feel fear, that’s probably the thing we’re supposed to do,” Estes said. “We all have our own demons and they use that fear to keep us from discovering our potential or purpose. If we don’t face those demons or fears, then we can’t grow.”

Though many times people face trials on their own, as members of the Air Force everything is built around teamwork. That teamwork can stimulate a fire-back attitude that builds a stronger and united team.

#GetYourWingsUp #FireBack #Resiliency