By Kolleen I. McGrathApril 18, 2008
The U.S. Army Materiel Command's Always a Soldier Program was stood up Feb. 9, 2004 by then Commanding General Paul Kern. The program has given many wounded Soldiers employment opportunities, allowing them to continue to serve the Army they love in a different capacity.
The program's current Program Manager Sean M. Lewis says he feels fortunate to have found his dream job that allows him to turn his passion into purpose.
Passion started early
Almost everyone in Lewis' family served in the military so his passion for soldiering came easy. Lewis enrolled in ROTC during high school and attributes his call to duty to his family's commitment to the military and his ROTC instructor's influence.
A Soldier always hears "you never see the one that get's ya"
On Jan. 21, 2004, then Sgt. Lewis was in theatre serving as the "Combat Commo" with the 588th Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division in Baqubah, Iraq.
Lewis had spent the day in a convoy, affectionately nicknamed the "Colonel's entourage." He and his fellow Soldiers returned to Camp Warhorse to enjoy a hot meal. Once rested, Lewis and two other Soldiers went outside to smoke.
"The next thing I remember is being on my back and trying to get my bearings," said Lewis. "My glasses were destroyed by the hit which left me at a major disadvantage."
Once Lewis was able to gain focus he immediately began looking for his Soldiers. He remembered that they had been standing with him but they were no longer there.
It was then that Lewis saw what appeared to be his right leg laying six feet away from him.
"That's when I realized I had been hit," said Lewis.
On the road to recovery
Lewis yelled for a medic and within 15 minutes he was put under anesthesia. Lewis' injuries were extensive: three out of four major arteries had been damaged; he had numerous shrapnel wounds and was missing a limb.
According to Lewis, his desire to live and his belief he had something more to accomplish kept him from death's door.
After being stabilized, Lewis was transferred to the U.S. to begin physical and occupational therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Lewis' physical therapy lasted a grueling six months.
"My physical therapist became my lifeline," said Lewis.
Lewis, now an "above the knee amputee," learned to walk again and says he knew he wanted to continue his career as a Soldier.
During his physical therapy, Lewis met with a Soldier family manager specialist who told him about the AMC Always a Soldier program, and the program manager vacancy. She suggested that he interview for the position and he did.
Lewis now serves and the AMC Always a Soldier program manager.
"I found a productive and meaningful career that give me a purpose and allows me to help fellow wounded Soldiers find jobs," said Lewis. "As the program manager, I hope to be an ambassador for the Always a Soldier Program, to address representatives on the Hill and get the message out that wounded veterans should be viewed as viable contributors to the Army and society."
According to Lewis, his disability lead to another introduction that changed his life. Every Friday evening Lewis and other wounded Soldiers attended a free dinner in downtown Washington, D.C. While attending those dinners, Lewis became friends with a woman named Cindy. Lewis and Cindy's friendship grew into romance and the two now have a family.
Lewis acknowledges that the tragedy he suffered was great. "Fortunately for me my story had a happy ending - a new career and family. I hope to help other wounded Soldiers find their dream."