Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas - Sgt. 1st Class John C. Hoxie, assigned to U.S. Army South's Intelligence Operations Division, was presented the Outstanding Department of Defense Employee with a Disability Award during the 39th Annual Department of Defense Disability Awards ceremony at the Pentagon Oct. 3.
"It is fitting that this year's theme for National Disability Employment Awareness month is 'The Right Talent- Right Now,'" said Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. "That's because our men and women, wounded warriors and civilians alike- all bring to the jobs, the skills that are critical to accomplishing our mission exactly when they are needed the most; which is right now."
The Pentagon's annual awards ceremony highlights the achievements of DoD employees with disabilities, reflects the progress that's been achieved, and also serves as a reminder that more remains to be done. Hoxie was one of 23 service members and civilians with disabilities who were recognized for their outstanding contributions supporting DoD's mission.
"Today, we are honoring the 23 service members and civilians for their remarkable achievements," said Esper. "They are joining us from all over the country. Their stories are different as are their areas of expertise, but all of them embody the spirit of service that defines our workforce."
Hoxie's left arm and leg were permanently injured by an improvised explosive device in Iraq Aug. 21, 2007.
"They say time slows down when you are put in a dangerous situation- I can confirm it definitely does slow down," said Hoxie as he described the moment he stepped on the IED and was flipped through the air. "I knew as soon as I put my foot down that something was wrong."
After the explosion, Hoxie said he tried to get up but was unable to stand. Once he realized the extent of his injuries he described how difficult it was to try to place tourniquets on his legs only using one hand. He was grateful the unit's medic was able to get to him so quickly.
"While I was in the hospital, I was actively trying to convince the medical staff to send me back to my unit," said Hoxie. "Gen. Richard Cody the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff at the time, was visiting wounded warriors and he asked me if there was anything that he could do for me."
Hoxie expressed to Cody his desire to stay in the Army. Recognizing his drive and motivation, Cody told Hoxie about the Army's Continuation of Active Duty Program.
"I really held onto that the whole time," said Hoxie.
He credits the Army's Wounded Warrior Program with assisting him with the difficult process and allowing him to continue serving. He offered words of advice to others in his situation.
"To anyone who receives an injury-don't give up and don't get down on yourself," said Hoxie. "The biggest problem I had, and a lot of other people had, was due to the limitations from an injury. You may feel like less of a Soldier or you are not good enough anymore. The truth is that is just in your head. Yes there are things I cannot do anymore but this is the Army; I can get better and push to the task that I want to be able to do."
Hoxie has pushed through years of surgeries and physical therapy to get back to the force.
"I didn't want to leave on someone else's accord," said Hoxie. "I wanted to leave the Army on my own accord."
Hoxie said he was not expecting to be recognized, but he was honored to receive the Outstanding DoD Employee with a Disability Award.
"I know there are very few Continuation of Active Duty Soldiers in the Army and most of them are not amputees," said Hoxie. "So to me this award stands for how committed the Department of Defense is to retaining people who have the skills and knowledge to fill a job even if they aren't the most physically fit."
Hoxie said he had set a goal in 2009 to run at the 2010 82nd Airborne Division All American Week division run. Unfortunately he was unable to reach that goal. He is currently using the resources available at Joint Base San Antonio- Fort Sam Houston, like the Center for the Intrepid, to assist him in trying to run and pass as many of the events for the Army's Combat Fitness Test.
Hoxie was recently selected for promotion to master sgt. and plans on continuing his service until retirement.