A Soldier’s journey to walk again: A story of hope and resilience
1 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Saron Om, a physical therapist at Womack Army Medical Center giving Sgt. William Keelan, accident victim assigned to the Soldier Recovery Unit Fort Liberty cues to improve walking movement patterns and assist with recovery from any loss of balance as Koda his service dog stands by. (Photo Credit: Keisha Frith) VIEW ORIGINAL
A Soldier’s journey to walk again: A story of hope and resilience
2 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Saron Om, a physical therapist at Womack Army Medical Center giving Sgt. William Keelan, accident victim assigned to the Soldier Recovery Unit Fort Liberty cues to improve walking movement patterns and assist with recovery from any loss of balance as Koda his service dog stands by. (Photo Credit: Keisha Frith) VIEW ORIGINAL
A Soldier’s journey to walk again: A story of hope and resilience
3 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Saron Om, a physical therapist at Womack Army Medical Center giving Sgt. William Keelan, accident victim assigned to the Soldier Recovery Unit Fort Liberty cues to improve walking movement patterns and assist with recovery from any loss of balance as Koda his service dog stands by. (Photo Credit: Keisha Frith) VIEW ORIGINAL
A Soldier’s journey to walk again: A story of hope and resilience
4 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. William Keelan holding his service dog Koda after his physical therapy session with Saron Om, physical therapist at Womack Army Medical Center. (Photo Credit: Keisha Frith) VIEW ORIGINAL
A Soldier’s journey to walk again: A story of hope and resilience
5 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Saron Om, physical therapist, left corner; Sgt. William Keelan and Koda, his service dog; Spc. Javier Cruz Torrez; Joy Davis, occupational therapist; Mashonda Tillman, recreational therapist; Brett Clingerman, physical therapist; Soldier Recovery Unit Fort Liberty and Staff Sgt. Michelle Whittaker pose for a picture following a walk on October 27, 2023. (Courtesy Photo) (Photo Credit: Keisha Frith) VIEW ORIGINAL
A Soldier’s journey to walk again: A story of hope and resilience
6 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Saron Om, a physical therapist at Womack Army Medical Center giving Sgt. William Keelan, accident victim assigned to the Soldier Recovery Unit Fort Liberty cues to improve walking movement patterns and assist with recovery from any loss of balance as Koda his service dog stands by. (Photo Credit: Keisha Frith) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LIBERTY, NC--Accident victim remains hopeful as he receives treatment at the Womack Army Medical Center Physical Therapy Clinic.

“I never gave myself a moment to really think about how bad it was,” said Sgt. William Keelan. “I told everybody that I was going to walk out of the hospital, that was the end goal, and it still is.”

Keelan sustained injuries to his spinal cord after being run over by a truck in October of 2022 and was later assigned to the Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) at Fort Liberty. The SRU's mission is to help Soldiers recover from their illnesses, injuries, and wounds so that they can return to duty or successfully transition to civilian life.

This injury resulted in bilateral lower extremity weakness and difficulty walking. Since January this year he has been working with Physical Therapy Assistant, Saron Om a veteran who works with multiple trauma patients and has been making progress. He continues to work on building his strength for walking and other activities of daily living.

Om said, Keelan received C-braces in August of 2023, which are braces that have a microprocessor-controlled orthosis that allows people with paralysis in the legs to walk. “Through constant efforts with physical therapy he is now able to ambulate using the braces across uneven terrain, go up and down slopes, inclines and take stairs one foot at a time,” said Om.

The brace is beneficial to Keelan because it controls flexion and extension resistances during the entire gait cycle, preventing rapid knee flexion or buckling under load. The c-brace has been helping him to get the support he needs to walk better and longer distance.

“Keelan is now independent with the C-braces when using a walker but is continuously working to improve his endurance and kinematics with gait,” said Om.

He even challenged himself to walk one mile with SRU Chaplain, Capt. Monserrate Vergara Soto on October 27 as part of their “A Life Worth Living” curriculum at the SRU. Through team effort from the physical therapy staff Om’s schedule was opened, allowing him the opportunity to work with Keelan on this SRU community event. Keelan was able to complete a one-mile walk, the longest distance he has been able to complete to date.

“Seeing him challenge himself amid adversity reminded me of the Warrior Ethos, “I will never accept defeat” and “I will never quit.” In a culture so centered on living a life without sufferings or challenges, Sgt Keelan epitomizes the fighting spirit of the men and women of the military who will not accept defeat, will not quit, and will do everything within their capacity and sometimes beyond that capacity to excel and recover,” said Vergara. “Sgt Keelan embodies resilience, unwavering determination, and unyielding commitment to his well-being despite the odds stacked against him.”

Keelan said the walk was exhausting but he was thankful.

“Om knows what he is doing, and I really would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for him,” said Keelan.

Om said it is a team effort.

“We both put in hard work, there's times when I’ve had a cancellation and I’ll contact him and he’ll come over, and we've been able to accommodate him,” said Om. “It’s hard work on both our ends but definitely, it takes a lot of drive from him.”

From struggling to stand and balance Keelan has come a long way, and he is thankful for the support that he has received from the SRU, physical therapy and his service dog Koda. Koda attends his physical therapy sessions and assists him with mobility and emotional support.

For those who might have similar injuries Keelan has a few words.

“There is always hope, don’t give up, where there is a will there is way, technology is advancing further today, that it's possible, just don’t give up on yourself.”