Person of the Week: Kortney Clemons

After war, one soldier become competitive athlete.

ByABC News

April 27, 2007 — -- Kortney Clemons doesn't do things the easy way. At 5 feet, 10 inches and 145 pounds, he was a little small, even for a junior college football cornerback. He joined the Army and served in Iraq as a combat medic.

And today, he ran in the Penn Relay, the largest early-season track and field meet in the United States. It was an important day for him. Clemons sprinted, competitively, on a full prosthetic leg.

"Today is just a big day for me, get a chance to run, compete with some of the good guys and just see how it is and carry this experience on with me today to the next meet and just keep building," Clemons says.

He has come far from that day in Iraq, just over two years ago, when he came across a soldier who'd been injured when a Humvee flipped over. While he and other medics transported one of the wounded into a helicopter, a roadside bomb exploded, killing three. Clemons lost his right leg above the knee. It was just days before his tour was to end.

It's been on the running track where he fought to get his life back. "I never was around anybody with an amputation at all, so I pretty much figured I'd probably be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. What changed is was when I got to see some other people doing some great things. And they were successful and they had the same amputation as I did. So I just wanted to be part of that group," Clemons says.

He is now a star member of that group. And he hopes his accomplishments will serve as an example to get other injured vets out of their wheelchairs. "The reason why I am here is because I saw someone else do it. If I can be a model, whether it's for running track and field or whatever you can get back up and get going again," he says.

He wants to be recognized as a competitive athlete, without getting special treatment because of his injury. "When we're running today none of us want any pity party. But at the same time we want them to realize life is not always fair but you can always bounce back from whatever. Just never give up."

Clemons hasn't given up. He is the first Iraq War veteran to qualify for the U.S. Paralympics Games, where he will represent the United States in Beijing in power lifting. His goal now is to compete in the 100 meter sprint as well.

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