Missionary Injured in Brussels Bombing Entering U.S. Naval Academy
Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
"I … felt like the Lord wanted me to be a missionary at that time." —Mason Wells, returned missionary injured in the Brussels airport attack
For most newly inducted students at the United States Naval Academy, the grueling military training/indoctrination program known as Plebe Summer presents the most difficult challenge they’ve ever faced.
Future midshipman Mason Wells has endured far worse.
Recognize his name? Wells was one of the four Mormon missionaries injured in the March 22, 2016, Brussels airport terrorist attack. The young elder suffered serious injuries in the explosion. He spent two months in the hospital, undergoing six surgeries and several other procedures.
A lifelong goal
Despite the trauma of the bombing and his long and painful recovery, Wells never swayed from a goal he had worked toward for years: to attend the historic Naval Academy.
Wells comes from a military family. Both his grandfather and his great-grandfather were high-ranking Marine Corps officers. “Ever since I was in junior high, I’ve known exactly what I wanted to do,” he said in regard to his own military ambitions.
Getting in to the academy is tough—so he made himself a viable candidate by enrolling in rigorous academic classes at Utah’s Lone Peak High School, playing multiple sports, and embracing leadership opportunities.
He had planned to attend the Naval Academy right out of high school and even secured the required congressional nomination. But an appointment was not offered.
He was understandably frustrated and angry. “But I also felt like the Lord wanted me to be a missionary at that time.”
He accepted a call to the France Paris Mission. His service in Europe offered many uplifting memories and experiences—and, of course, a tragic moment of horror and sadness. Wells will be forever linked to his fellow missionaries who were also seriously injured in the attack—Richard Norby, Dresden Empey, and Fanny Clain.
Moving forward undaunted
“It changed my life,” he said, matter-of-factly, 15 months after the bombing.
In the aftermath of the explosion, Wells knew many dark days. His recovery moved slowly. But with time, his body and spirit began to heal. He recalls the joy of being able to run and rock climb once again.
And he also reignited his goal to join the Naval Academy’s Brigade of Midshipmen. For the second time he began the arduous application process and received several congressional nominations. He was also deemed medically fit for military training and service.
In April, he formally accepted an appointment to the 171-year-old service academy. He’s a big step closer to achieving his dreams of graduating from the academy and leading sailors or Marines. His family is traveling with him to Annapolis in a few days to watch him raise his hand and be sworn into the class of 2021.
Wells is enlisting many of the skills he developed on his mission to prepare for Plebe Summer. He’s in good physical shape and he’s dutifully learning his “rates” (aka USNA rules). He’s ready to transition from civilian to military life.
“I know it’s going to be hard, but I’m putting my faith and trust again in God.”