FALLS CHURCH, Va.- After seventeen years in the Army as a Human Resources Specialist, Sgt. 1st Class Brett Hartley is doing the unthinkable this late in his career…changing jobs. He’s thought this through and has good reason. After spending a year at the Walter Reed Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU), he found a new purpose and passion.
“I want to give back like these great NCOs and leaders at Walter Reed did for me. I could go my next three years as an HR guy, but to be a squad leader and not just talk the talk but walk the walk with Soldiers because I did it myself is more rewarding than anything I could ever do.” Hartley started his new career at the Fort Belvoir Soldier Recovery Unit this month.
“There’s nothing this old guy has needed or been neglected on. The program works whether you stay or go, but it works. This benefit is second to none,” said Hartley, who explains how he ended up at Walter Reed in the Army Recovery Care Program in the first place.
“I was stationed in Italy, and in April of 2022, my health started going south, and the docs at Landstuhl in Germany couldn’t help, so they sent me to Walter Reed.” Hartley suffers from esophageal and stomach problems with a condition called Achalasia. He said even Walter Reed couldn’t do the necessary surgery, so they sent him and consulted with Johns Hopkins for his life-saving surgery.
“After that surgery, there was no way I could go back to Italy and Return to Duty there, so I was transferred to the SRU at Walter Reed, allowing me to continue to receive the care I needed, which is the greatest thing that could have happened.”
After taking advantage of the programs at the Walter Reed SRU, Hartley feels he has a new lease on life.
“I’m doing great. If you had talked to me in April 2022 when this happened, I didn’t think I’d be living. I was angry and frustrated and didn’t know if the surgery would work. With Achalasia, your esophagus gets deformed. I knew it would be a long recovery. I was so blessed, knowing that the only thing I needed to take care of was my treatment- what a relief.” Hartley says he took advantage of the Physical, Occupational, and Behavioral Health therapy offered through the SRU.
“I fought to return to duty, and now I'm going to be at FT Belvoir SRU as Cadre. I know I can make a huge difference by helping even one Soldier. I’ve been on their side and can help them navigate.”
Hartley says he sees many young Soldiers in the SRU who give up at the thought of getting better. He has better advice he’s shared and will continue to share as a walking, breathing example of what the Army Recovery Care Program can do.
“The only way you are going to fall is on your own. The SRU staff looks for every opportunity to give you what you need to succeed. Take those opportunities.”