Cpl. (Ret.) Joshua Justice always knew a life in the Army was for him until it wasn’t. A previous knee injury prior to enlisting reared its ugly head while on a deployment to the US-Mexico border at his 11th year of serving. “I got deployed as an MP [Military Police] with the National Guard down to the Mexico border to support our border patrol. One day in 2020 when I was coming off a shift, I just felt my ACL explode.” That previously repaired knee injury suffered further wear and tear with deployments and relocation.
Justice went to the Fort Stewart Soldier Recovery unit for surgery on a torn ACL. His future in the Army was now at stake and he admits it was a troubling time while he worked to recover and overcome this setback.
“It’s easy to get into a depressive state and sleep your days away. I had to get out of my head and out of the barracks. This is where Adaptive Reconditioning folks like Ariel Bailey, who is a Recreational Therapist, really helped me. She would call and say hey let’s go shoot archery or go play golf just to get me out and moving.”
Besides the physical aspect of having to heal there is the mental state of dealing with potential real-life changes. “Whatever diagnosis they have doesn’t mean they can’t do, it may be that they have to do things a little different, and that’s what we do to help,” said Bailey who indicated everyone in Adaptive Reconditioning takes this approach to help define the problem and works to help Soldiers figure out how to build confidence and find their footing again.
“That’s what I loved about the Fort Stewart SRU,” said Justice. “Between Ariel and Staff Sgt. Mann, they made everything work for the Soldiers. Building a relationship with those two is the biggest thing about that SRU at Fort Stewart…they’re the ones that get the Soldiers out of the barracks.”
Justice says many Soldiers are caught up in what they can’t do and he didn’t want to focus on that. Physical Therapist and Adaptive Reconditioning Team Lead at the Fort Stewart SRU, Dr. Yvonne LaRochelle, played a huge part in helping Justice get out of his head. “Dr. LaRochelle is an amazing person. She pushes you to do better. She’s a great person to talk to and that’s very much a part of the healing process,” said Justice.
LaRochelle makes no bones about the fact that learning to adapt is key and is up to each Soldier. “Getting out of that environment and stepping into a space or new community with a positive ‘vibe,’ positive outlook; somewhere with the potential to teach a new perspective or learn a new skill or show how to adapt is priceless. It is what we strive for everyday in the Adaptive Reconditioning Program, to create a positive environment that removes the Soldier from the barrage of negativity whether self-imposed or absorbed and replaces it with much needed Love, Growth, and Support.”
Through activity, education and talking, Justice found new goals. He is medically retired now and is thankful for the opportunities afforded to him through the Army Recovery Care Program after having spent a year and a half at the Fort Stewart SRU. “It’s kind of cool that I was able to go to school while in the SRU for my Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).”
He just received his CDL through ARCP’s Career and Education opportunities and is planning to drive locally. “My mom is a truck driver too, so I let her do the long road trips…I’ve been gone enough in my life I want to be closer to home here in Florida,” laughs Justice.
“I would read stories about Soldiers in the SRU and would think wow, I don’t have near the injuries or obstacles these Soldiers have or had, so it made me think the SRU was not for me.”
He didn’t want to take that space from someone who he thought needed it more. “I loved reading their stories of how they overcame. It was inspiring and it even pushed me to get up and out and better myself.”
Wounded, ill or injured, the Army’s Soldier Recovery Units are for all Soldiers. Justice, who never thought he would need an SRU, hopes anyone who does in the future will take his advice.
“Don’t give up. I was there for a year and a half. Utilize every opportunity afforded to you and work toward a better you.”