A near death experience for Ashland resident Benjamin A. Pooler, Jr. has inspired him to become one of the medical professionals who helped him survive.
Pooler’s journey to classes at Ashland Community and Technical College began in 2010 in Ramadi Iraq, when he was injured in an incident involved an IED, also known as Improvised Explosive Device. He was serving as a military consultant to the Marine Corps when he went through “what probably was most terrifying experience for me as a man and a husband.”
“At the time, I did not realize that I would never return to Iraq or serve with the men I left behind. I spent many nights in the hospital overseas and at home to get the needed care, so I would have the ability one day to recover and live out my life once again.
“I guess I could have sat in a chair the rest of my life, but that felt unappealing to me. As a person who had spent a lot of time with the Marine Corps in Ramadi and Fallujah, I feel a need to return the favor to those men in uniform who saved my life more than once. Many of them come home injured as I was, and the care I received by medical personal showed me how I could one day serve those who helped me in so many ways”.
“In addition, I had to find some other type of employment, and that seemed harder now that I had a debilitating disability. After countless doctors and surgeries; however, I was told I would be 100% disabled. Somehow, I felt useless for the first time in my life and had no hope of ever making a difference.
“But I felt I owed something back to the men and women who serve our nation, and what better way than to become someone they can rely on for help?”
“So I became inspired at the ripe old age of 48 to go to college with the goal of becoming a Doctor in Osteopathic Medicine to help veterans returning from combat. Primarily, I want to work in orthopedics to help vets those who received injuries related to muscle or bone. Those are similar to the injuries I received and common types of war zone injuries.”
“I know how someone feels coming home after being injured, and the adjustments that are required when you come home from a war zone. I want to be someone they can rely on for help.”
“I had on many occasions thought of college, but most of the time my duties made that impossible,” Pooler said. He served overseas as military consultant for 26 years. “Now I have the time and maturity to attend college. I could not have been more enthused to start ACTC and begin a journey I've dreamed about for years.”
Originally from Tacoma, Washington, Pooler found his way to Ashland though a friend who had moved here.” I found that Ashland has some of the kindest people living here, and now I consider Ashland my home.”
Pooler started on his new career at ACTC because “it was affordable, close to home, and you are taught by some of the best professors in small classes that make you feel at home.”
“ACTC offered a way to begin a doctor’s degree in a small class atmosphere that takes some of the edge off of being a student once again. At ACTC, I want to complete my studies in Biology, get an Associate in Science degree, and transfer to Morehead University for a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology (pre-med). Then it’s off to another university, perhaps Pikeville, for Osteopathy or Physician’s Assistant.”
“Going back to school was harder than I expected, but you can do anything as long as you try. While here, I was fortunate to get tutoring to help me get started in subjects I hadn’t touched in years,” Pooler said. He has since been tutoring other students for free, as “my way of paying back Student Support Services for the help I received during my first classes at ACTC.”
“Tutors are important for many students not only nontraditional students like me who were out of school for years but also many younger students,” Pooler said. One of his tutees, Eugenia “Gina” Brison, credits him with helping her through math. “Math was the only subject stopping me from getting though college and now it’s almost easy. Ben was caring and ready to help whenever I needed it.”
Besides tutoring while taking a full load of classes, Pooler also finds time for acting in ACTC Theatre productions.
His theatre activity is another example of turning challenges into positive experiences. “I needed to find a way to overcome a fear that I developed in Iraq about being in tight closed places with lots of people. What better way to overcome something then jumping right in the middle of it?”
“With no previous experience in theatre or acting classes, I found theatre challenging and rewarding at the same time, and I made some lifetime friendships as a bonus,’ he said. He started in a small role in A Christmas Carol in 2012 play) and portrayed Bob Cratchitt in A Christmas Carol last month.
Despite a continued need for medical care, Pooler has managed to fit theatre productions, tutoring sessions, and group studies into a full schedule of classes. This spring he will also be a Supplemental Instruction Leader, helping students in anatomy & physiology with review and discussions sessions. He expects to graduate from ACTC in May.
“It is important that I can make a difference in someone else’s life,” he said. “This has always been a life goal of mine, and I am fortunate that my family has been supportive and that the faculty and staff have been so helpful. ACTC has afforded me this opportunity, and I will not waste it.”