Face of Defense: Amputee Earns 'Sergeant, Airborne' Title
By Cheryl Rodewig, 1st Infantry Division
FORT BENNING, Ga., Sept. 13, 2011 - Like thousands before him, Army Sgt. Joel Dulashanti donned an Airborne instructor black hat for the first time last month, signifying his completion of a detailed certification process with 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Unlike those before him, he met the standard with a prosthetic leg, a partial knee replacement and the aftermath of internal injuries suffered during an ambush in Afghanistan. With his wounds, he could have taken a medical discharge from the Army, but the paratrooper chose to stay in -- and to remain Airborne, all the way.
"It's still brand new," he said, "but it feels good to actually have my hat."
Dulashanti's determination in the face of adversity, evident at the unit, will be instrumental in training Airborne students, said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Chip Mezzaline, battalion command sergeant major. More than 17,000 students come through the battalion each year.
"He's had a traumatic injury and had the resilience to stay on active duty and serve as an instructor in a position that's high-risk," Mezzaline said. "It's in his character -- something you can't teach. It's something inside him that's going to drive him to be successful in whatever it is that he's doing. I don't think 'can't' is in his vocabulary.