FALLS CHURCH, Va.- After eleven years in the Army, CW2 Emanuel Delgado says his path in life took a hard and unexpected turn. “I was on a deployment in the Middle East. I woke up in the clinic, and they told me I had a full-body seizure. They had to MEDEVAC me out.”
The Army helicopter pilot, who is used to being in control of taking off and landing, was now in unfamiliar territory with just as many questions as there were answers.
“After a lot of testing, I was diagnosed with epilepsy, with a seizure disorder.” No cause for the condition was found. Delgado, who is not returning to duty, says he is controlling his epilepsy successfully with medication.
“It's not hereditary, so I'm very surprised. I never saw it coming. I’ve been through a lot of emotions. My future, past, my family… everything I’ve worked for. It is a lot of emotions and a lot of feeling,” said the newly engaged father of two.
In November of 2022, Delgado came to the Ft. Belvoir Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) in Northern Virginia. “I am very thankful for the SRU. It’s a great resource for all Soldiers. I’ve always been about taking care of Soldiers, and I think this unit provides a lot of needed support and information. Unfortunately, most Soldiers don’t know this until they need an SRU.”
The Fort Belvoir SRU offered a variety of opportunities Delgado never could have imagined would be available to him. From Adaptive reconditioning to Career, Education, and Readiness events, the opportunities were endless. Delgado says the force behind the events was even more impressive.
“I’m more surprised by the people who create the opportunity. There are individuals who care so much about the Soldiers, and they make the SRU the place that it is. My Transition Coordinator, James Coleman, works tirelessly on many things for me.”
“There are a great deal of opportunities, not to mention finance and housing resources, which are available to the Recovering Service Members (RSM) within the unit. I am able to reach out at a moment's notice to place the Soldier in the right direction,” said Coleman, who has helped many Soldiers at Fort Belvoir over the last seven years as they recover and overcome.
“It provides me with great joy to give back to those who have sacrificed for their country, so I give my all at every chance,” said Coleman.
One of the many events Delgado participated in was the Lifeline Equine Therapy Services (LETS) program. He couldn’t believe the connection and how much it helped in his recovery. He learned the horse is in touch with what is happening medically in Delgado’s life as they spend time together.
“The instructors talked us through what to expect and prepped us, and then we approached the horse and started building a relationship. It was strange that the horse could feel your energy and respond. They let us walk the horse around, lead it, and work on commands. My horse kept giving me horse hugs.”
Delgado says he will continue working with Equine Therapy and will take all the lessons learned from his time in the SRU with him. He says he hopes others will see the value in this program that is custom-made for each soldier.
“There are people here doing a number of different jobs, from the Nurse Case Manager, the Transition Coordinators, the Squad Leaders, Events Coordinators, etc. There is so much here to make sure the Soldier is set up for success. From physically and behaviorally to mentally, this team is ready to help, so reach out and take it.”