LIMA, PERU — Imagine if you had it all. In this life, you have good looks, and you are a professional soccer player. You are a firefighter, and an EMT saving the lives of others. All the while, when you are doing this, you find the time to represent the USA as a member of the United States Armed Forces in the Special Operations Unit.
Now, imagine in an instant that your life comes crashing to a stop. It’s one moment that Team USA Futbol 7-a-Side standout Seth Jahn knows all too well. Jahn, who turns 37 at the end of this year, is lucky to be alive following a U.S. Military parachuting exercise accident in late 2008, when his parachute did not open — causing permanent brain and spinal damage upon landing. He woke up three weeks later in a hospital bed, barely moving, hemiplegic for nearly six months.
“It was a static-line jump at 1000 feet that I would call a modified cigarette roll. There was a malfunction, the reserve failed to deploy, and I lawn darted in.” John says of his accident. He continued, “what saved me is that we really shouldn’t have been jumping that day, the wind was at 29 knots… there were a lot of dignitaries or PEs on hand that day so they didn’t want to cancel the jump. I was actually coming in sideways. So, when I came in sideways I was immediately coming to my feet, coming in for a [Parachute Landing Fall]. I hit my feet and then I hit my head and it knocked me out for three weeks.”
Along the way, there was determination with road blocks. That’s what Jahn had in his long road to recovery, as it took nearly two years before getting back into shape for military action. However, lightning struck twice. Jahn was injured in a near-fatal motorcycle accident. Rehab was grueling.
“I’m gonna be honest with you it was one of the most arduous times of my life. It was because I put so much clout as who I defined myself and in my own arrogance, and in that dynamic it was necessary for me to be broken in every way possible, physically and mentally. It was the notion to take some humility as the next steps to get me to my life, so that process was diffuse for me for sure.” He continued, “I did every kind of therapy possible: physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, speech therapy, and I would stay later when they shut the gym down for an hour because there wasn’t that much to do, so I snuck the key from one of the nurses and worked my way back into, learning to walk again.”
Post military, Jahn kept in with the U.S. Government, becoming a badge and credentialed special agent for the government. Two years later in 2014, he became a US government security contractor. Jahn was injured once again in the Middle East, after being hit by shrapnel from an enemy rocket, Jahn suffered a punctured lung, ruptured eardrum, and another traumatic brain injury.
It was his favorite sport of soccer that Jahn found solace in. Once rehabilitated, the former St. Andrews University stand out in soccer first started playing 7-a-Side in 2014, while moonlighting for German soccer clubs.
“I was working for the government in Germany, actually” said Jahn, “In between my assignments, I was playing around on club teams and I kind of got back into it. I was playing with guys on the base and they were telling me that I was really good and I never told them I played in college or professionally or anything like that. One of the guys said, ‘man you should try out for one of the real teams!’ So I did and I wasn’t doing anything apart from my assignments, so I started gaining attention from the United States team, and the rest was history.”
In 2014, Jahn was invited by USA Soccer to try out for the national 7-a-Side team and from there, his journey continues, playing in London 2014 Paralympics, Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games and Rio 2016 Paralympics. Now he finds himself in 2019 in Lima to help Team USA go for the gold.
“7-a-Side futbol is really developing as a sport, and it’s awesome to see the talent throughout just increase exponentially. I mean they are getting some legit talent, our core team, we all play as an able-bodied team. We all played the division one, or college, or pro-level soccer some of our players are division two college, so they are legit ballers and I would love an opportunity like this, I would never turn it down a chance to hear some of their remarkable stories.”
No matter what he does though, he is bound to be good at it, Jahn not only plays soccer (futbol), but also masquerading around as “The Most Interesting Person on Earth,” judging by the activities he pursues and his abilities. He has participated in events including (but not limited to): Formula One racing, dog sledding, mountain climbing (Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Blanc, and Elbrus so far, and plans to attempt Mt. Everest and Denali in 2019), bull running in Spain, he’s a wrestler of tigers in Thailand and has been a tiger shark diver in the Bahamas. Oh, by the way, he also plays baseball, basketball, and many, many other sports.
Did we mention that he speaks four languages FLUENTLY? He speaks English, Spanish, Dari and Pashto.
“Man, if I had a nickel for every time someone said that about me, ” Jahn jokes, “but there is really nothing special about me” said the man, who in confidence confessed without joking that he stopped wrestling sharks so that he could “start wrestling crocs and alligators instead” when he moved to Thailand, just one of 88 countries that he has visited in his lifetime with purpose for work and pleasure.
The most important thing to remember about Team USA’s true renaissance man is that he owes his life to serving others to protect the nation he loves.
“Man, it’s such an honor for me.” professed Jahn adding, “I mean I had this moment in Rio, where I was walking through the tunnel and looking at that [American] flag perfectly silhouetted through the light before we get to 8,000 people in Americana Stadium. I remember that I had this moment of reflection to when I had this injury on my arm I also had this flag on my arm but it all ripped up and all bloodied up. Then I looked down at that U.S. crest and seeing it…being around all these phenomenal athletes again, it all comes through with significant moments in our lives. I was told I was never going to walk again, and it was just six years prior to walking with Team USA in Rio. It’s just was a powerful movement for me.”
Seth Jahn and Team USA won’t just walk, they will march with pride, to their own beat, as they punish the competition.
Team USA Futbol 7-a-Side team next plays Monday, August 25, 2019 at 9:30 AM (Central Time) vs. Argentina at Complejo Deportivo Villa Maria del Triunfo Stadium.