Army Amputee Runs On Inspiration
(February 15, 2011)
Warrant Officer Johnathan Holsey takes part in the first ever Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 14, 2010, where he participated in the 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash and cycling events. Courtesy Photo
||WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 11, 2011) -- Johnathan Holsey is a runner.
The warrant officer stationed
at Fort Gilliem, Ga., keeps fit for military duty -- often logging
two to three miles per day, but with one caveat; Holsey has a
Assigned to the 3rd Military Police Group as
a human resources technician, the 14-year Army veteran hasn't let
his injury hold him back. Contrarily, he said being injured has
spurred him to do things he never attempted before -- like running a
"When I first got injured, I thought if I
could ever run again, I'd give it my all," he said.
Holsey's Army career began in 1992 when he joined as an
Armor Crewman, and has been stationed in Georgia, South Korea,
Florida and Washington, D.C. He changed his military occupation
after a few years and became an administrative specialist, which is
what he deployed as in 2004.
While serving in Iraq as a
staff sergeant providing personnel support to the 2nd Infantry
Division, Holsey was swiftly initiated into the infantry lifestyle
with near-daily convoys. Holsey explained that his unit was
re-locating to another Forward Operating Base, and troops and
supplies were shuffled constantly.
Holsey said he wasn't very worried about riding in convoys, because "you
never really think you might get hit." |
But on Nov. 10, 2004,
when Holsey was headed out on another routine trip, what he didn't
"That whole day is a blur," he said of being
hit. "I never remember anything I did that day."
from the memories of other Soldiers who were there, Holsey only knows
what happened second-hand. He doesn't remember his vehicle lurching in
the blast from an improvised explosive device, and he doesn't remember
how he managed to get out.
Holsey said he lost consciousness
until he arrived at a clinic on a Marine base.
"The one thing I
do remember is that I almost rode in a different vehicle that day. I was
supposed to switch, but I went back. I always think about that," he
Holsey was medically evacuated to
Germany, and then flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington,
When he first arrived at Walter Reed, Holsey's left leg was
reinforced with metal pins, and he endured "wash out" surgeries every
two days to prevent infection. Finally, Holsey's doctor told him that
amputation might be his best option, and the next day he went into
Told later by his ex-wife and stepsons that he reacted
more emotionally than he remembers at the news he'd lose his leg, Holsey
said he's at peace with his decision now.
"I think I've learned
to accept it," Holsey said of his injury. "I think some of the things
I've accomplished I wouldn't have if I wasn't injured."
Throughout his year of recovery, he said at times he felt as though he
wasn't making progress, but within only two months he was fitted for a
prosthetic and walking again.
Holsey ran his first Army 10-Miler with Walter Reed's "Missing Parts in
Action" wounded warrior group where he met Sue Bozgoz, a retired Army
lieutenant colonel and running coach.
Bozgoz, who's helped
hundreds of other runners throughout her Army career and now coaches
full-time, said Holsey was the first wounded Soldier she trained.
"I realized that there's a lot of need to inspire wounded warriors,"
Bozgoz explained, noting she coaches because she loves seeing someone
finish what they started.
Bozgoz and Holsey kept in touch via
e-mail and phone, with Bozgoz providing a training schedule and new
distances and times to aspire to. One of Bozgoz's colleagues, retired
Capt. Millie Daniels, would also meet Holsey at a track two to three
times per week to help him train.
Bozgoz, who's completed 52
marathons, is now also an agent for world-class runners who run in
support of wounded warriors during races around the country.
"The goal is to inspire more people to run," she said.
2008, Holsey has run in each consecutive Army 10-Miler, a few
half-marathons and the last 10 miles of the Marine Corps Marathon.
Interestingly, Holsey said he wasn't really a runner prior to his
injury, but he pushes himself harder now, just to see what he's capable
In keeping with that theme, in 2009 Holsey applied for
Warrant Officer School, and became the first amputee in the Army to
graduate. He said the instructors at the school showed him no favoritism
because of his injury -- the school was all-around challenging.
"I think I was physically prepared for it, but I'm not sure I was
mentally prepared for it," he said.
his current duty station, Holsey said most of his peers didn't know he
was injured until them saw him in shorts. But now when they see him
running or working out, many of them are inspired to work harder.
Although Holsey inspires others -- he receives constant e-mails from
people he doesn't even know to offer him support -- he said, "it's the
people around me who make me stay positive."
He said before he
was wounded, he'd never met an amputee, but now feels as though other
wounded warriors are who he relates to best.
"Sometimes I think
we have to see each other out there," he said of seeing other wounded
warriors at challenging events. "To me, it makes me realize I can still
Holsey's advice to other wounded Soldiers is to find
someone to relate to and talk to them -- it's important to let feelings
and frustrations out, he said.
"I think you just don't give up,"
he said. "Don't allow your limitations to be my limitations."
Holsey plans on staying in the Army until he retires, and he has his
injury in part to thank for his decision.
"Because of the
opportunities they've given us as wounded warriors, it's important for
me to stay and help pave the way for others."
By Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown
Army News Service
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