KU News Release

May 14, 2010
Contact: Kevin Boatright, Office of Research and Graduate Studies, (785) 864-7240

First class of students from Wounded Warrior program to graduate May 16

LAWRENCE — A group of Army soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan have new items to fit into their duffel bags: caps and gowns.

On May 16, the University of Kansas will formally graduate the first class of students from the Wounded Warrior Educational Initiative, a partnership between KU and the U.S. Army that gives wounded soldiers the opportunity to continue their education and careers of service to the nation. The program was established in 2008 after KU and Fort Leavenworth leaders proposed the concept to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, who was wounded in World War II, also voiced support for the program.

This program, initiated by the secretary of the Army, allows severely wounded soldiers the opportunity to complete master’s degrees, then return to the Army and work in assignments where the Combined Arms Center and the Army can benefit from their education and personal experiences.

“These soldiers have had to overcome tremendous obstacles to graduate and meet the Army’s requirements,” said Adrian Lewis, professor of military history and director of KU’s Office of Professional Military Graduate Education. “Their achievement is a credit not only to their individual initiative and hard work, but it’s also positive reflection on our armed forces. I expect that each of them will go on to make a significant contribution to national defense and a few of them to academia as well.”

Lewis added, “The University of Kansas is a great place to be for soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. KU’s staff and faculty have gone the extra mile to help these wounded warriors, and their efforts have paid off.”

A reception for Wounded Warrior graduates will be at noon Saturday, May 15, at the Malott Room in the Kansas Union. The reception is open to the public. Commencement is May 16.

The graduates are listed below by hometown.

From Lawrence 66044
Capt. Timothy Edward Hornik will earn a master’s in social work. Hornik is an active duty air defense artillery officer originally from the south suburbs of Chicago. While serving in Iraq, he suffered a bullet wound to the head that resulted in severe trauma to his right eye. After graduation, Hornik will transfer to a branch of the Army’s medical command to counsel other wounded soldiers. He resides in Lawrence with his wife, Cate Smith, a former Army captain, and daughter Abigail. Hornik will complete his degree this summer but is taking part in the May 16 ceremony.

From Lawrence 66046
Retired Capt. Wesley E. Fine will earn a master’s in global and international studies. Fine is a former infantry officer from W’aimanalo, Hawaii, who served with the Army’s 1-503rd Infantry Regiment (Air Assault). While on a mission in Iraq, Fine (pronounced Fee-nay) was hit by shrapnel in his face and chest from indirect fire that ultimately resulted in the loss of his left eye. After graduation, Fine will work as a researcher for the Army at Fort Leavenworth. He has a bachelor’s degree from Hawaii Pacific University.

From Olathe 66061
Retired Sgt. Robert Andrew Laurent will earn a master’s in supply chain management. Laurent was born and raised in Baton Rouge, La., where he enlisted in the Army right out of high school. On Christmas Eve in 2004, Laurent’s platoon was ambushed during road clearing operations north of Tikrit, Iraq. In the ensuing battle, Laurent suffered shrapnel wounds to the legs, arms and face. Portions of his fingers were amputated, and his right eye was removed. He has a bachelor’s degree from Texas State University-San Marcos. Laurent will be transferred to Fort Lee, Va., upon graduation. He lives in Olathe with his wife, Briley, and their three children.

From Lansing 66043
Capt. Gates Brown will earn a master’s in history. Brown grew up in Lansing, near Fort Leavenworth. He was an active duty armor officer in 2007 when he was injured by an improvised explosive device attack in Iraq. He sustained several fractures to his right leg, ankle and heel and was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal for his service. After graduation, Brown will serve as an instructor at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. He is a Lansing High School graduate and has bachelor’s degree from Pittsburg State University. Brown is married to Marty, a physical therapist. They live in Lansing with a daughter, Anna. His parents are Ralph and Debra Sorrell. For more about Brown, see news.ku.edu/2010/may/4/brown.shtml.

From Leavenworth 66048
Retired Capt. David Warren Holden, will earn a master’s in history. Holden is a former infantry officer who suffered a loss of hearing, knee damage and an amputated foot as a result of an improvised explosive device blast in Iraq in 2004. Upon graduation, he will work as an instructor at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. He has a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. He lives in Lansing with his wife, Sherri, and daughter Kayla and son Noah.

From Waipahu 96797
Chief Warrant Officer Ari Jeanbaptiste will earn a master’s in political science. Jeanbaptiste is originally from Haiti and was injured in the crash of a helicopter he was piloting in Iraq. He suffered an ankle injury, foot damage and multiple compression fractures in his back. Jeanbaptiste will continue on active duty as an instructor at the Fort Leavenworth Command and General Staff College. Ari and his wife, Sara, live in Lawrence with their two children, Pria and Noah. Jeanbaptiste will complete his degree this summer but is taking part in the May 16 ceremony.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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