Soldiers take their boots but leave their soles behind at WTU

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - As patients walk into the Warrior Transition Clinic (WTC), health care posters, numerous handouts and fire escape plans hang on the wall - all information patients would expect in a health clinic. However, something unusual sticks out.

Lining each mint green wall, as far as the eye can see, are pairs of small bootprints approximately 6 inches in height - 392 pairs of bootprints to be exact.

Above a few select pairs are names and dates. The people at the clinic call the bootprints the "graduating wall."

"We have so many Soldiers come through here," said head nurse Connie McCarty, WTC. "When they leave, they have usually overcome a great physical, emotional or mental battle."

McCarty said, the wall is WTC's way of acknowledging the Soldiers' battles.

As Soldiers graduate from the clinic, they sign their name to a pair of bootprints, leaving their legacy behind.

Sgt. 1st Class Gabriel Camacho arrived at the clinic in October 2008 after being diagnosed with a form of skin cancer. After two short months, Camacho ended his treatment. He was then offered a job and assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU).

"I've been here; I've been through much of what the Soldiers here are going through," said Camacho. "As (a noncommissioned officer), it's my job to take care of Soldiers. Having been on both sides, it's easier for me to help them."

Camacho's signature was the first to grace the wall in November 2008. To date, only a handful of Soldiers have signed the wall, but signatures appear each day.

"To me, signing this wall was a huge accomplishment," said Camacho. "In the Army, you are taught to be goal driven. Cancer was just another obstacle I needed to overcome."

Camacho looked down at his signature above the ink-splattered bootprints.

"This signature is validation that my mission was completed," said Camacho.

For Staff Sgt. Tomee Phetsisouk, WTU, leaving a legacy has provided him the inspiration to help other Soldiers.

"This boot will always be here," said Phetsisouk. "With it comes the story of how I made it. It's a lesson for Soldiers to follow."

More than a 100 Soldiers have passed through the Warrior Transition Clinic since the clinic opened its doors in March 2008. As the Soldiers leave the clinic, a part of them is left behind in their memory shaped like the bottom of an Army boot.

Each bootprint tells a different story of success and triumph.

"Each boot is unique and a little bit different," said McCarty, "just like my Soldiers."