PHOENIX — It’s been 22 years since Jason Schechterle’s life changed forever while on duty. He hasn’t let that stop him from marking major milestones, including recently celebrating his 50th birthday.
“You rack up as many wins and yeses in life and you don’t get too caught up in the no's and the failures,” said Schechterle.
The Phoenix native now dedicates his life to sharing his message of grit and resiliency worldwide.
In 2001 Schechterle fulfilled his dream of working as a rookie Phoenix police officer.
On March 26, 2001, he was responding to a call when his patrol car was hit from behind. A taxi driver had an epileptic seizure and hit Schechterle's car traveling more than 100 miles per hour. Schachterle was trapped inside as the car burst into flames.
You might think his dreams ended there, but his journey was just beginning.
In a twist of fate, a firetruck was nearby. First responders rescued him and got him to a hospital within minutes.
Schechterle suffered severe burns to more than 40% of his body. He underwent more than 50 surgeries.
His recovery was difficult. "It was just so dark and heavy," said Schechterle.
What he experienced and what his family witnessed and stood by him during is unimaginable for most.
He shared that humor has helped him through the tough times, along with support from family, friends and coworkers.
“I’ve tried an awful lot of medication. I’ve tried to heal over the years, but there is nothing in this world; as soon as you smile, as soon as you laugh, you feel better,” said Schechterle.
Over the past two decades, he has been a living example of overcoming adversity.
Schechterle returned to the Phoenix Police Department 18 months after his 2001 accident.
He and his wife also welcomed their third child after the crash, completing their family of five.
He spent years advocating to get the car he was driving that 2001 night off the road due to being prone to catching fire.
He’s advocated for blood and tissue donations, which helped save his life. He shared that recently he lost a close family member who was a tissue donor, which is now giving him a new emotional outlook on the selflessness of the donation.
“A lot of people don’t realize one tissue donor can help 80 to 120 people,” shared Schechterle.
He retired from the police department in 2006 and began to fulfill his new dream of motivational speaking.
He now travels worldwide, sharing his message from his book “Burning Shield."
“My favorite part is they get to know the true story, directly from me,” said Schechterle. This year he traveled to the United Kingdom and shared his message with the Ipswich Town Football Club.
Schechterle recently celebrated his 50th birthday. His newest title is Grandpa.
“I earned that title and I want it and it’s true what they say; you love your kids unconditionally but when you look into the eyes of your first grandchild, it just absolutely makes all the bad fade away,” shared Schechterle.
After all he’s been through, he wants people to know we’re all in control of our lives.
“Do not go home at the end of this day and say, it was a bad day. Most likely you had a bad 20 minutes, and then you allowed your attitude to make the rest of the day bad,” he said.
He challenges everyone to find a way to help someone else.
“Leave today better than you found it,” said Schechterle. “It feels good.”
You can find Schechterle’s book on Amazon.
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