Face of Defense: Soldier Overcomes Spinal Injury
By Army Sgt. Erica N. Cain
479th Field Artillery Brigade, 1st Army Division West
FORT HOOD, Texas, Aug. 25, 2010 Her physical training may look ordinary, but for Army Staff Sgt. Dani Ventre of the 479th Field Artillery Brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, it represents her extraordinary resilience in overcoming a spinal injury.
“I have been on and off a ‘dead man’s’ profile for six years, which doesn’t allow me to participate in any organized physical fitness training,” Ventre said. But when her temporary profile ended, Ventre set goals for herself and began participating in the battery’s organized fitness training at her own pace.
Army Staff Sgt. Dani Ventre pulls a weighted sled during physical fitness training for the 479th Field Artillery Brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battery at Fort Hood, Texas, Aug. 19, 2010. A spinal injury prevented Ventre from participating in unit physical fitness training until recently. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Sebastian Bankston
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“During her recovery time, she would go over on run days and walk the quad, pushing herself to get the most she could until the unit finished physical fitness training, and come back for cool-down,” said Army 1st Sgt. James B. Hopkins, the battery’s first sergeant. “She worked very hard to set her own goals and stuck to them.”
Ventre said she took it upon herself to participate because she knew it would help her. “The physical fitness looked fun and would help me improve my physical ability, so I wanted to push myself to participate,” she explained. “My motivation to recover is not to hurt any more. I used to be a PT ‘stud muffin.’ Not so much anymore.”
Hopkins said Ventre’s motivation has been impressive. “What really stood out was the day the unit went on a battery run and Ventre lined up in the fourth rank with the pacesetters,” he said. “The lead soldier fell out of the group run, and Ventre was there to close the gap; she had never quit.”
Ventre said she’s been taking it slowly. “But I realize that the physical fitness sessions will help me recover and not be on profile any longer,” she added, “making me a better soldier, physically and mentally.”
Meanwhile, Hopkins said, Ventre’s resilience and determination set a good example. “At the end of the day,” he said, “that’s what it’s all about: a soldier never giving up and fighting until the end.”