Army Veteran Shilo Harris became an inspirational speaker after triumphing over injuries sustained from an IED explosion.
A son of a Vietnam War Veteran, Shilo Harris always knew he wanted to be a soldier. He got that chance after Sept. 11, 2001, when he enlisted as a cavalry scout in the United States Army.
Harris’s first deployment to Iraq came with the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, from Germany. His second deployment there came while stationed with the 10th Mountain Division.
On Feb. 19, 2007, Harris’s life was about to change forever. He was patrolling a southern Iraqi roadway when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED). The IED killed three of his soldiers and injured the vehicle’s driver. Harris survived the explosion, but not without severe injuries. He suffered third-degree burns on 35 percent of his body, causing him to lose both ears, the tip of his nose and three fingers. The explosion also fractured his left collarbone and C-7 vertebrae. However, this was only just the beginning.
Harris was held in a medically induced coma for 48 days. Upon waking, he spent three years in recovery and underwent more than 75 different surgeries. His wife at the time, Kathreyn, left her job to become his full-time caregiver, spending up to six hours a day at his bedside. He also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Harris began intensive physical therapy at the burn unit of Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas. At BAMC, Harris was the first human being to ever participate in extracellular stem cell regeneration, which successfully regrew his lost fingers.
In 2010, Harris retired from the Army. Reflecting upon his service and his injuries, he said that, “Everything in life is a gift. Sometimes it may not be the gift you want, but you realize that your challenges are a new beginning.”
Today, Harris is a motivational speaker and a spokesperson for the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, whose mission is to help severely wounded Veterans and families of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He travels the country sharing his story and raising awareness for PTSD. His message is one of hope and triumph over tragedy, and Harris shares it within his memoir, “Steel Will: My Journey through Hell to Become the Man I was Meant to Be.”
In 2012, the Harris family was the recipient of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and was provided with a new home equipped to serve Harris’ unique medical and physical services.
We honor his service.
Writer: Aubrey Hutson
Editor: Elissa Tatum
Researchers: Brandon Warren, Candler Weinberg
Graphic designers: Korak Sengupta, Grace Yang