My name is Johnnie Williams and I joined the Army right out of high school and served for 2 years (2001-2003) as a 31sierra (satellite operator/maintainer), I did 1 tour in Iraq and I sustained my injury there in a humvee accident. My injuries included a compression fracture at my L2/L3 vertebrae, broken pelvis, severed artery in my leg, punctured both lungs, and sustained a slight brain injury.
The reason I joined the Army was because I didn’t have a lot of choices coming out of high school and I also wanted to have a chance to travel the world. Getting injured at 20-year-old was a hard adjustment and the next few years would prove to be trying. I spent a lot of time self-medicating, no drugs, just heavy drinking and partying to distract myself from reality.
With everything that was happening I did manage to get married, get some college credits in, also get involved in some adaptive sports, and some mental health counseling. With everything that was happening, my wife and I decided to leave Florida and start anew. Since getting to Oklahoma in 2012 I have been a discus thrower and became a Paralympian, I have a son who is now 5 years old, tried my hand at rowing, and brought a house.
I first heard about SoldierSuit from a therapist at the VA hospital, they thought I would be the perfect candidate for a suit. It was very hard at first, only making a few steps before I had to stop, but I would get better and better after each session. I feel amazing to be able to look someone in the eyes over the top of their head. It felt amazing to hear people say, “man, I didn’t know you was that tall.” I remember the first time I got my home unit and the first thing I did was look out of the peep hole; I could’ve cried I was so excited. Sometimes when I put the suit on, my son looks up at me and says, “dad I’m going beat you.” And that makes all the effort worthwhile.