by Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
5/14/2015 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- "I
am a man who has lived through hell. It is hard to share this
experience. The carnage. The devastation. The loss. But I will do it.
Because I will always know the horrors of war," wrote retired Army Staff
Sgt. Shilo Harris in his autobiography. "I will tell you what an
explosion does to you on the outside. And I will tell you what an
explosion does to you on the inside. And I will demonstrate what it
means to live fearlessly, with a clear understanding of the grace that
can redeem mayhem."
War is something Harris said he'll never forget, but instead of letting
his experiences cripple him, he's turned them into strengths to help
build his 'Steel Will'.
Recently, Harris visited Seymour Johnson Air Force Base to participate
in a National Prayer Breakfast and share his story with members of Team
"It's a true honor to be in the presence of a great American hero," said
Senior Airman Matthew Glover, 4th Security Forces Squadron patrolman.
"It's truly a blessing to have him come here and tell us his inspiring
During his presentation, Harris talked about his experiences before enlisting in the Army and those afterward.
Harris was born into a family with roots of military service and,
according to him, he always knew he wanted to be a soldier serving his
During his stint in the Army, Harris deployed twice including a tour to
southern Baghdad. While traveling in an armored vehicle, Harris' team
was struck by an improvised explosive device, which killed three of his
best friends and wounded the driver. Harris survived, but lost both his
ears, the tip of his nose and three fingers. He also suffered third
degree burns on 35 percent of his body and sustained multiple bone
His injuries were so severe that he was placed in a medically induced
coma for 48 days. Afterward, he spent nearly three years recovering and
undergoing physical therapy at the burn unit of Brooklyn Medical Center
in San Antonio. More than 75 surgeries later, Harris still hasn't fully
"The worst thing that ever happened to me in my eyes, was that I was
burnt to a crisp," Harris said. "It took three years of recovery, but I
did it. And here I am today, a better person. And I'm ready to keep on
Harris also struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and was medically retired from the Army in 2010.
"Everything in life is a gift," Harris said. "Sometimes it may not be
the gift you want, but you realize that your challenges are a new
Today, Harris uses his story to inspire veterans, wounded warriors and
other groups around the country, as well as raise awareness about PTSD.
Harris said that the biggest thing he wanted Airmen to take away from
his visit was to remember that they are not alone.
"There is a network of people out there that are willing and ready to
help," Harris said. "You can overcome anything in your life. I didn't
think I could, and there were a couple of times that I wanted to give
up, but I kept pushing forward and was able to overcome."