ARLINGTON, Va. — Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Fontenot knows a thing or two about the ability to recover and overcome. You might even say he’s had nine lives since 2007: that’s how many surgeries he endured from rupturing an ACL, meniscus and MCL over the years due to sports injuries, Army training and deployment.
Many of those injuries were before his deployment to Iraq. While on patrol there, he re-injured his leg while coming out of a Blackhawk helicopter, eventually increasing his total knee surgeries to nine including a total knee replacement, said Fontenot, who is the current Operations NCOIC at 1st Battalion, 30th Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
Fontenot came to the Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) at Fort Campbell in Kentucky a few years ago ready to get back in action. Once he arrived, he quickly became focused on competing for a spot on Team Army for Warrior Games. He made the team and competed just one month after surgery on Team Army at the 2019 Warrior Games in Tampa, Florida.
Fontenot said his family and his fellow Soldiers motivate him to push forward with his recovery.
“I strive to make my parents proud of me no matter what I do. My dad would go to work regardless of whether he was hurting or tired or whatever the case was to ensure that our family had what it needed,” he said. “I try to do the same thing for my beautiful wife and my son. Often when times get dark and I don’t feel like continuing, I think back to my buddies that I grew up with in the Army — some of whom are no longer here — and their fire helps fuel me to keep going.”
They would be proud: Fontenot won three bronze medals for Team Army that year.
Keeping fit is important to Fontenot not only for competition, but for his overall health and desire to take care of his family for a long time. Fontenot, who was named the 2015 Army Times Soldier of the Year, helped create the Drill Sergeant preparation course and helps candidates improve their fitness. He knows that when it comes to being fit, giving up is not an option.
“It’s extremely hard to get back to where I was, and I doubt I ever will,” he said. “However, it doesn’t mean that I’ll ever stop trying. I follow a strict routine every day.”
Having a routine and a support system are crucial on the road to success, he added.
“Between my routine and the support of my wife, I strive each and every day to be 1% better than the day before,” he said. “That way, at the end of three months, I know I’ll be 90% better than when I started.”
The Army Warrior Care and Transition Program is now the Army Recovery Care Program. Although the name has changed, the mission remains the same: to provide quality complex case management to the Army's wounded, ill and injured Soldiers. Visit our website at https://arcp.army.mil