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Oosterhaus playing in a tennis clinic
Lt. Col. Dan Oosterhous maneuvers on the court in a wheelchair to meet a forehand shot during a May 14, 2013 Warrior Games tennis clinic here. (U.S. Air Force photo/Raymond McCoy)
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Academy officer earns high-level leadership award

Posted 2/28/2014   Updated 3/4/2014 Email story   Print story


by Amber Baillie
Academy Spirit staff writer

2/28/2014 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo.  -- The Academy's men's tennis coach was named the 2014 Brig. Gen. Malham M. Wakin Character and Leadership Award winner during the National Character and Leadership Symposium here Feb. 27.

Lt. Col. Dan Oosterhous, a 1993 Academy grad, received the award for his perseverance and resiliency after suffering two brainstem strokes, three weeks apart, maintaining a positive attitude amid difficult circumstances and demonstrating integrity, service and excellence.

"I was honored to be nominated by the Athletic Department for the award," he said. "And to be selected as the winner given the quality of the competition, it was a very humbling experience. I have always felt that my rehabilitation was something that anyone would do, because the alternative is to not improve."

Oosterhous suffered his first stroke Feb. 28, 2013 due to a dissection of an artery. He was put on a blood-thinner, and for the next two weeks endured physical and occupational therapy to regain strength throughout the right side of his body. A week later, on March 21, he suffered a second stroke causing near paralysis on the left side of his body.

He remained in the hospital for four weeks and was unable to drive for two months. He learned to use his weakened right side for everything and retrain his brain to communicate to the muscles on his left side.

Throughout his recovery process, Oosterhous continually set and accomplished his rehabilitation goals to return to his Academy duties as soon as possible. He also inspired family members, co-workers and cadets by sharing his journey on an online blog.

"Throughout my recovery, I have learned that sharing my experience has had a positive influence on others and I want to keep doing that," he said.

In August 2013 Oosterhous returned to the Academy to coach his team part-time and traveled with to half of their scheduled matches. Through his adversity, Oosterhous mentored cadets  and is working toward traveling full-time with his team and teaching physical education this spring.

Oosterhous was also a regular supporter of the Wounded Warrior Program's adaptive sports camps, during which he shared his challenges on his road to recovery.

The Wakin award, named for Brig. Gen. Malham Wakin, is presented annually to the individual or team making the greatest contribution to cadet character development during the previous calendar year. Nominees are considered for significant contributions to cadet character development, conspicuous moral courage, great personal sacrifice, conduct above and beyond the requirements of duty, and leadership and professionalism in keeping with the highest ideals of Air Force tradition. Wakin served as vice-dean and as head of the Philosophy and Fine Arts Department from 1959-1995.

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