By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 26, 2009 - The U.S. Army Warrant Officer School soon will welcome a new accession of warrant officers this spring, and one will bring with him a new perspective to the Army officer corps. Staff Sgt. Johnathan Holsey became the first amputee accepted by the Warrant Officer School in Fort Rucker, Ala., where he is to report in April. He is currently assigned to Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Va.
Along with other wounded warriors, he's scheduled to be a guest on today's "Oprah Winfrey Show."
Holsey was injured Nov. 11, 2004, in Iraq where he was assigned to the 1st Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment. A roadside bomb caused severe damage to his left leg. Two weeks after arriving at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, and one day before Thanksgiving, the doctors told Holsey they needed to remove his leg due to severe infection.
"I remember the day when the doctor came in," he recalled. "I remember the doctor coming in on the 22nd of November and ... he told me that it was best that we amputate, but it was [my] choice."
Holsey said losing his leg was particularly challenging for him and his children. But through faith and family support, he was able to persevere and come through stronger and more focused.
"Family is very important to the recovery process," he added.
Hosey has thought a lot about his recovery and how he can continue to meet the challenges of being an amputee. "I'm blessed in my recovery, and I try to challenge myself to figure it out," he said. "Even though you might have lost your leg it doesn't mean you can't do ... things. You just have to figure out how to balance it or figure out how to do it."
Nearly five months after his injury, Holsey was fitted for his first prosthetic leg. He learned how to manage without a leg by participating in some of the hospital's coordinated activities, such as skiing and fishing.
"You have all these questions ... things you probably never thought of," he said. "Before I became an amputee, I can honestly say I never met one and probably never knew [one]."
Since his injury, Holsey has continued facing challenges head-on, never shying away from them, while seamlessly pursuing his desire to serve his country.
"I have always liked being in front," Holsey said. "I never accepted things as being mediocre."
In March 2006, soon after completing his rehabilitation at Walter Reed, Holsey attended the Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course, or BNCOC. His journey to become the first amputee accepted to Warrant Officer School was materializing.
"It was an interesting thing for me, because I was one of the first [human resources] soldiers to go as an amputee," Holsey said. "I felt that even though I wanted to stay -- I wanted to be a soldier regardless -- this is what we do. I wanted to go the next rank and knew this was something I had to do."
Holsey said that BNCOC was interesting for him and the trainers, who initially questioned whether he would complete his annual physical fitness test.
"BNCOC, for me, was pretty interesting," he said. "They were like, 'You are an amputee. How do we give you your PT test?'" Holsey wanted to participate in physical training and sought guidance from his immediate supervisors so he could perform his annual test.
Holsey said he remains on active duty in part because of the people he has met throughout his career. In fact, he said, one soldier he mentored contacted him many years later just to thank him for his leadership.
"He said, 'Thank you for being there throughout all of the things that I put you through' and 'You were still my sergeant, no matter what,'" Holsey said. "I think that was one of the most memorable things that ... made me realize this is why I want to stay around.'"
(This is the sixth installment of the Wounded Warrior Diaries series. Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg is assigned to the Emerging Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)