Wounded Warrior Turns Life-Changing Injury into Inspiration

Dawn Halfaker, a platoon leader platoon in the 3rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, was on a routine combat patrol near Baghdad when one single moment dramatically changed her life. In the darkness of an early-morning drive, her group drove directly into an enemy ambush.

Two weeks after the attack, Halfaker awoke in Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and learned that she'd lost her right arm as a result of the ambush. "I just remember looking to my right side and seeing this big white bandage where my arm used to be just thinking that my life was over," she recalls. "Not only did I lose my arm, but I'd lost my career…everything that I'd worked toward. The first few days after I woke up were really, really difficult. As I got a little healthier, the reality started to set in of, 'Oh my gosh, this is the rest of my life. This isn't going away.'"

Halfaker decided that wherever her path led her, she wanted to find a way "to serve." Today, she runs her own company, which provides technology solutions for the federal government, primarily the Department Of Defense.

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Halfaker required extensive physical therapy to recover from her injury and adjust to life with one arm. "There's really not too many things that, that I can't do. I can tie my shoes. I've learned it's okay to ask for help," she says. "But I feel good knowing that if I had to do everything by myself."

After fully recovering, Halfaker started working as a consultant on military projects for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. She then expanded into her own consulting company, Halfaker & Associates, with the vision to hire other military vets and wounded warrior who were injured while serving because they better understand the company's mission. Today, she has nearly 100 employees and more than 50 percent are veterans.

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Halfaker says her injury taught her the importance of patience and acceptance: "I think it's helped me be, hopefully, a more understanding person overall, and a better friend, and better family member." She believes it also helped make her a better executive: "A leader needs to be at their best when things are at their worst. That's not always easy to do. It's certainly not easy to do in combat when the bullets are flying. I mean, you have a plan. Things don't always go according to plan, but you've got to find a way to stay focused and motivated, and continue to, to get back up--no matter what comes at you."

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