By Emily Brainard and Nancy RasmussenApril 23, 2009
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Former Staff Sgt. Johnathan Holsey made history here last week as the first amputee to attend the Warrant Officer Career College.
Holsey, 35, from College Park, Ga., was injured in Iraq Nov. 10, 2004, when a convoy he was traveling in was hit by an improvised explosive device. The incident landed him in Walter Reed Army Medical Center, cost Holsey his leg, and could have ended his military career, except for his sense of purpose and his desire to pursue a profession he loves.
"I learned after my injury that I have to take every day as it comes. I try to look at everything as a challenge. Most things I've done since I have been injured (have) been challenging, but I don't know if I would have taken (this opportunity) if I hadn't gotten injured," he said of his experience. He said he feels both excitement and nervousness about being the first amputee to enter the Warrant Officer Candidate program.
His journey to the program began while he was still a patient at Walter Reed and a close friend motivated him to submit his Warrant Officer Candidate packet. His Family -- especially his 14- and 18-year-old sons-also played an important role in his recovery and motivation to continue his Army career.
"When I put my packet in, I didn't put it in with intentions of being the first amputee in the school, but I was made aware of it. In a lot of ways it's put a lot of extra pressure on me, but it's a career change I wanted to make," Holsey said.
Outside Warrant Officer Career College Headquarters Company and together with his fellow candidates, Holsey performed a drill of push-ups before packing up his gear and marching to Room 228, the 100-plus-square-foot space he will share with a roommate and call home for the next six weeks.
Holsey said his experience allows him to relate to other wounded warriors undergoing similar struggles. "I always try to take (my experiences) back to places like Walter Reed and (talk to) other amputees and just let them know that if you want to stay in the military, these are the different things you can do. A lot of times when I go there I try to make them look forward (and) think, 'okay if I decide to stay in, this is what I could aspire to do.' This makes it a lot better for me because I can go out and mentor other Soldiers," Holsey said.
Over the ensuing weeks, Candidate Holsey will undergo a series of drills, classes, exercises and treatment designed to prepare him to be a warrant officer. As a platoon leader he will not only use the skills and values he mastered as a noncommissioned officer, but will also apply those skills to the personal challenge before him.
But then, Holsey is no stranger to challenge, and has already discovered the source for his inspiration -- his fellow Soldiers.