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Uber Job Helped Veteran Jason Shelby Heal

3 min read

(Editor’s Note: Arkansas Business no longer has confidence in the biography of Jason Shelby, who was interviewed for this story. See the note at the end of this story for more details.)

After being shot three times in Afghanistan, Jason Shelby came home in 2009 a shattered man.

“I have microtemporal brain damage and a bullet went through my stomach,” he said. “I also have a particle lodged in my left knee. The pain was constant.”

After 17 years in the Army, he said, he was accustomed to physical distress. The psychic trauma, though, was paralyzing, and Shelby said a key factor in his recovery from PTSD — as odd as it sounds — was starting to drive for Uber.

“When I got home I didn’t drive a car for three years,” he said. “I was too afraid. I stayed in my ex-wife’s basement for a year until they made me go to counseling.”

The first step back, he said, was going to graduate school on the GI Bill at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he heard two female students discussing Uber. He had to ask what Uber was.

“At UA, I took the bus everywhere, but I began talking to my counselors about ways to enhance my therapy and embrace my fears, and everything just came together.”

With encouragement from friends and family, he bought a small car and started driving.

“The very first passenger I picked up for Uber was a UA student from Afghanistan,” Shelby said. “When I picked him up I had overwhelming anxiety and fear, but he was so nice. He noticed my dog tags and asked me if I had been in his country of Afghanistan. When I told him yes, he reached over and grabbed my hand and thanked me. He said it was because of me and my fellow soldiers that he was able to come to America and study.

“I had picked this guy up, and he was from the place where all my anxiety came from,” Shelby continued. “From that point, I knew I was going to be OK.”

Shelby, who has moved from Fayetteville to Bentonville, now has his master’s degree and has fielded offers to become an athletic trainer, but with earnings of up to $1,200 in a good week, he says he’s sticking with Uber.

“Between the money and the injuries I suffered, it’s perfect for me,” he said. “If I’m having a bad day, I can just stay home and not turn the app on, and nobody blinks. Being able to do a job not on my feet, but riding in a car comfortably, has really helped.”

Shelby said he and his girlfriend, another veteran who has been an intern in suicide prevention at the Department of Veterans Affairs, often discuss his recovery. “We talk all the time about how driving for Uber healed me. I’m not afraid to go out anymore, and it’s kept me from having the walls close in around me.”

His girlfriend, Denise Christopher, graduated with her master’s degree on Saturday and will soon be a counselor at the VA, Shelby said, but that’s not all: “She also drives for Uber.”

Editor’s Note: 

Arkansas Business no longer has confidence in the biography of a northwest Arkansas Uber driver who was interviewed for this story.

Jason Shelby identified himself to Arkansas Business as a 17-year Army veteran for whom driving for Uber had been helpful in overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder after being shot three times in Afghanistan. He also claimed to have earned a master’s degree at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Since the publication of the story, however, questions about his background have been raised and efforts to confirm his claims have been unsuccessful. The UA could find no record of a degree being awarded to Shelby, and the Pentagon could find no record of a veteran by that name with the record he cited, according to Lt. Col Jennifer R. Johnson of Army media relations. Shelby stands by his account of his military service.

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