Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Tick When I Run

I tick when I run!!!! What does that mean????

On April 9th, 2004, I led my platoon on an attack to seize bridge 3 East in Al Kut, Iraq from the Mahdi Militia. In the ensuing fight nine of my scouts and myself were wounded, plus three guntrucks were damaged. I took multiple trauma to the chest during the fight . One of the projectiles I was hit with failed to detonate. If it had I would not be here. I recovered from each hit and continued to fight. The next morning I had a fairly large bruise on my chest but did not think much of it. I was happy to be alive.

Washington Post article from June 2004 about my units combat experiences in Iraq

I finished out the deployment and to make a long story short, I started having problems with physical fitness when my unit got back and resumed normal physical fitness training. One thing led to another and I ended up at a cardiologist who did an echo of my heart. He asked if I took any trauma to the chest in Iraq. I told him the story and he told me my mitral valve was torn and I had 40% leakage.  I had surgery on June 21 2005 and received a carbon mitral valve. That is why I tick when I run.

Needless to say,  I consider April 9th to be my “ALIVE Day” since I am blessed to still be alive.

I was a triathlete before the war and doctors told me after surgery I would not be able to resume competing in endurance sports nor continue my Army career. I did both. I had a good recovery and 5 months after surgery I competed in a triathlon as a member of a relay team, 10 Months after surgery I completed a sprint triathlon, and 11 months after surgery I completed an Olympic distance triathlon as well.

 I was given a medical profile that acknowledged my injury but did not prevent me from doing my job. I was assigned to Korea and I took command of C Co, 1-72 AR “First Tank” at Camp Casey, Korea. 

Upon return to the states I was assigned to FT. Polk, La where I took command of A Co, 1-353 IN (FSF-CA) in the 162nd Infantry Brigade. In April 2009 I completed the New Orleans Half Ironman.

 In February 2010 I deployed to Afghanistan. In March 2010 I had the honor of being selected to receive  the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award. In May 2012 while I was still deployed in Afghanistan my wife received the award on my behalf from the Chief of Staff of the Army, General George Casey.

In January 2012 I ran the half marathon portion of the Louisiana Marathon, carrying Old Glory the whole way. In February I ran Cowtown in FT. Worth, Texas carrying Old Glory in that race as well.


In May of this year I competed in the Crawfishman Triathlon in Bush, La and also in the Spartan race in Burnet, Texas.

I do not run as fast as I used to before the war. In fact I run pretty slow. I have gotten over that. When I hear my fellow triathletes talk about a new PR I am just thankful that I am alive and can still run. My injury is not obvious since it is internal. If people see me without a shirt they might see the scar under my right pectoral muscle from where the surgeon cut though to conduct surgery on my mitral valve by entering through my rib cage. But what no one can miss unless they are deaf is the ticking of my mitral valve when I run.  That is a good sound, the sound of life.

This year on April 9th, my “Alive Day”, I had an awesome workout with my fellow Team RWB members Tara, Roderick, Jerry, Jacque, and Bridget. One of my friends from the pre-war days , Mitzi Dekeyzer Fairbanks, was out there with us as well. We were friends before the war and  she is one of my connections to my pre-war self.

It felt great to be out there pushing myself with the team. I am limited by my injury but that does not prevent me from giving 100%. My teammates can hear the sound of my carbon fiber heart vale “tick” when I get my heart rate up during exercise. One of the biggest parts of my recovery was accepting that I would never be “Fast” again. That was frustrating in the first year of my recovery. But I grew to accept it and now I am happy to be alive to finish events and not worried about my time or what my competitors are doing.   I win every time I cross the finish line.


Jonathan is an experienced leader and coach with a proven record of leading and developing others to perform at higher levels and improve their overall effectiveness. He has a passion for learning and developing others to improve as leaders. Jonathan brings lessons from over 25 years of experience leading in U.S. Army Infantry, Cavalry, and Armor units in a wide range of assignments, to include leading soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea. He is a decorated veteran and a recipient of the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award. Jonathan served as a faculty member at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY before transitioning from the Army in 2015. He is a certified Executive Coach and operates his own leadership coaching business. Check out his website here:


  1. Thank you for everything while I was under your command in Korea CPT Silk strike fast

  2. I went to school with you Jon. That is a pretty amazing story...and apparently so are you! Proud to say I knew you once:) Rock on!

    1. Laurene,
      Thanks! I appreciate that. WHere are you now?


  3. Dear Jon- I am researching the family tree of Aaron and Francis Silk of Brooklyn NY. If you are a relative please contact me at