Veterans Gain Physical and Emotional Strength at SISU Strength Academy


Joy Clark

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Army Reserve Sergeant, Joy Clark is used to gunfire.  But she didn’t expect it while being processed for deployment at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009.

“One of my soldiers pulled me out of my chair onto the ground and I landed on my right side.  So, I’m facing her she’s facing me and I’m looking in the direction of the shooter about 15-feet away.”

As part of a combat stress control unit, specializing in battlefield behavioral health, Clark first thought it was a surprise training exercise.  She realized it was the real thing when she recognized the smell of real blood, not the fake blood used in training.  She says the shooting seemed to go on for hours.  In reality, it lasted about 10 minutes – enough time for the gunman to kill 13 soldiers, five of them from Clark’s unit.

Clark herself was among 32 people injured.  She took a bullet to the forearm, which cost her bone and muscle and years of full mobility.  She’s had seven surgeries to repair the damage.  Repairing the emotional scars is even harder.

“A lot of things are challenging,” says Clark.  “It’s more like, I gotta wake up every morning and just… I’m not gonna quit today.  I’m just not gonna do it.”

Her trainer, Jeff Coder won’t let her.

“If I don’t come in for a class, guarantee you, within five minutes of class being over, I’m getting a message from Jeff, ‘Where were you? What’s going on.'”

Coder has been working with Clark for two years.

“When we first started certain things that are normal occurrences in a gym, loud noises, would trigger a response to where she would jump and not mentally be able to handle that,” says Coder.

Clark is part of the “Lift For The 22” program.  The name is symbolic of the number of veterans who commit suicide every day due to post traumatic stress.  The mission is to help veterans work through their problems by providing free gym memberships.

“I’m a veteran myself and this program is highly impactful and I know the effects health and exercise has on a person,” says Coder.  “What we want to do is be on the front lines, on the tip of the spear in reaching out into the veteran community.”

Clark says the program has help her beyond measure.

“We push each other.  We help each other if someone is struggling.”

SISU Strength Academy in Waukee is holding its first “Grit Series” to benefit the “Lift for the 22” program.  For details go to:


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