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October 26, 2012- -
AUBURN -- The Tigers' game against Texas A&M this weekend will carry special meaning for cornerback Josh Holsey.
It's Military Appreciation Day on the Plains and Holsey's father, Jonathan, is a Warrant Officer with the U.S. Army. He currently is on his way to Auburn from Belgium, where he's working as a human resources liaison for troops stationed in Europe.
"I'm so glad he'll be here because he'll be getting some recognition for what he's done before and what he does now," Josh told AuburnSports.com in an exclusive interview. "He's so dedicated to serving his country. He's had chances to get out and get away from it, but he's not looking to get out. The tough times he went through helped make him the man he is, so he doesn't want to walk away."
Jonathan Holsey is glad he can walk at all.
He was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division when his life was changed forever on Nov. 11, 2004. Jonathan Holsey's unit was relocating to another operating base as part of a convoy in southern Iraq.
Suddenly, his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.
To this day, he remembers nothing about the incident.
Josh found out the next day when his mother failed to wake him on time for school. That was an odd change in schedule, he thought, and broke down moments later upon learning the news about his father.
"I didn't know anything; I thought he was going to be in a wheelchair. I thought I might not ever see him again," Josh said. "When we flew to D.C. and I got to see him, that was a relief. I didn't go to school for a whole week when that happened. It took time to kind of adjust to everything that was changing."
What happened in Iraq didn't resonate fully with Jonathan Holsey until Nov. 22, when doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center made a suggestion.
They said injuries along his left leg were infected and the possibility for recovery was slim. Still, they asked Jonathan Holsey to make the decision about his next step - continue to rehabilitate the injuries or amputate the leg.
"It was my choice and that was an important thing," Jonathan Holsey said. "This was something that happened to me, but I chose the path I took from that point. I just looked at it as an obstacle I'd have to overcome."
His recovery couldn't have been more affirming. Jonathan Holsey soon was fitted with a prosthesis and began pushing himself to new physical limits. The Army requires a high level of fitness, of course, but running became his passion.
In 2008, Jonathan Holsey participated in the Army Ten Miler in Washington. He has completed every Ten Miler since -- including one earlier this month -- several half-marathons and the final 10 miles of the Marine Corps Marathon.
He proved that a disability doesn't have to be disabling.
"It's like anything else - you just attack it," Jonathan Holsey said. "You overcome what's in front of you. What I've done has to do with the values and work ethic that was instilled in me."
It's no surprise that Josh, his youngest son, is thriving on the Plains. Despite arriving on campus earlier this season, Josh already has forced his way into the starting lineup at cornerback.
Maintaining production as an 18-year-old against Southeastern Conference offenses isn't easy. Yet coaches keep praising the freshman for his tenacity, toughness and ability to learn from mistakes.
There's a reason.
"His attitude rubs off me. He told me always to fight, to work for everything I get," Josh said of his father. "Nothing will come easy. I look up to him because he works so hard at everything. It's not just football. I'm here to get an education, too. I know I have to make him and my mom proud with what I do in class, too."
Jonathan Holsey is glad to hear that.
He doesn't apologize for placing high expectations on his two sons. He believes achievement in rooted in being prepared for what happens next.
"I am hard on him. That's the truth," Jonathan Holsey said. "If I'm hard on him, the challenges he faces won't be as bad for him. It's not enough to be a football player. You have to be a smart football player. I've pushed him to face challenges head-on. That's what it means to be a man."