Former medics, authors join wounded warrior education program
Ethan Harris and Kortney Clemons listen to Army Wounded Warrior Education Initiative Administrative Assistant JoAnn Roberts as she goes over materials that the Army and the University of Kansas will need completed during an orientation session for the new students July 21 in the Lewis and Clark Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Harris and Clemons are pursuing their master's degrees in curriculum and teaching through KU as government civilian employees. After completing their educational requirements, wounded service members fill Army training and education positions through the AW2EI program.

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (July 29, 2010) - Two former Army medics are the newest students in a program that helps wounded warriors get an advanced degree and teach within the military.

Kortney Clemons and Ethan Harris are part of the third class in the Army Wounded Warrior Education Initiative, a partnership between the Army and the University of Kansas. Both Clemons and Harris are working toward earning a master's in curriculum and teaching.

"I love being in an instructor/student environment, and I'd love to continue that at a higher level," Harris said.

Two recent graduates of the program are now teaching in the Department of Military History at the Command and General Staff College. Dawn Tallchief, assistant director for the Office of Professional Military Graduate Education at KU, said the wounded warrior education program could place students anywhere the military needs them.

"With Fort Leavenworth right here in our backyard, it was just an opportunity to provide focused services and a program," she said.

Students in the program typically live near KU while in the program, which is about an hour's drive from Fort Leavenworth in Lawrence, Kan.

"Many institutions are becoming more aware of the need to expand or enhance services for veterans," Tallchief said. "In terms of KU, this was definitely something they saw as a way to provide additional support to veterans and to military personnel."

Clemons still wears a bracelet that honors the names of Soldiers who died during the incident in which he was injured: Sgt. Jesse Lhotka, Staff Sgt. David Day and 1st Lt. Jason Timmerman. While on patrol in Baghdad on Feb. 21, 2005, Clemons came across an overturned humvee, likely from a blast. He began working on the Soldiers and was carrying one on a stretcher to a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. As Clemons neared the helicopter, another improvised explosive device went off. It killed the three men and Clemons eventually lost his right leg above the knee.

After an extensive recovery, Clemons was not only able to walk again, but became a world-class paralympic competitor. In 2008, he became the champion in 100-meter champion for the "above the knee" category and long jump champion in the U.S. Paralympics Nationals.

Clemons wrote a book about his experience, "Amped: A Soldier's Race for Gold in the Shadow of War."

And Clemons isn't finished competing. He made the world team this year for 200 meters, which will compete in New Zealand in 2011.

During his recovery process, Clemons also earned a degree in theraputic recreation from Penn State University. His goal in earning an advanced degree is to go back and teach other Army medics. Clemons said he'd be willing to go anywhere the Army sends him, but he would like to teach at Fort Sam Houston near Brooke Army Medical Center where he spent time recovering.

"I just want to be able to give back to society, be productive, and get a good quality of life," Clemons said.

He especially wants to be an inspiration to Soldiers going through the recovery process.

"Everybody has problems," he said. "Some are physical, some are mental, but at the end of the day, if you have the will power to succeed, you'll be OK."

Harris didn't have a singular incident that caused his injuries. He had various injuries in the neck and back that took place during his deployment to Iraq in 2007 through 2008. He spent a total of about five years on active duty, but 13 years in the military, including his Army Reserve service. In addition to being a medic, Harris has an extensive background in religion. He has bachelor's and master's degrees in theology and philosophy from Corban University and has published a book, "The Gospel According to Joseph Smith: A Christian Response to Mormon Teaching."

During his Iraq deployment, Harris worked in a provincial reconstruction team for the U.S. State Department similar to the human terrain teams that train at Fort Leavenworth. Harris speaks proudly of the skills he helped instill in Iraqi communities: how to set up a health and medical administration team, how to fix a water treatment facility and many other essential services. Harris lost a colleague, Steve Farley, a retired Navy captain, during their deployment.

Harris was medically retired earlier this year as a staff sergeant. He said he has had a very positive experience with a community-based health care organization, which is essentially like Wounded Warrior Transition units outside the Army medical system. Being part of a community-based WTU allowed Harris to recover while spending time with his wife, Mindi, and their five daughters, Emma, Elsie, Erin, Lexi and Bethanny.

Harris found out about the Army Wounded Warrior Education Initiative through an adviser in the community-based WTU.

"I am very grateful to the AW2 program for the chance to continue serving the Army in an increasing degree of responsibility," he said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16