The cynical old saw is that some soldiers see a battle injury as a ticket home — to the extent that tales abound of soldiers’ shooting themselves, inflicting minor wounds, to get out of combat. Army Ranger Joseph Kapacziewski is a stellar example of the exact opposite approach to life and warfare, after an enemy grenade in Iraq in 2005 a mere two days before his tour was up shattered his right leg and inflicted other debilitating injuries.
Kapacziewski’s dedication leapt to the fore as he demanded of those carrying his broken body into a medical ward: "Is this going to ruin my chances of being a squad leader?" according to a USA Today
profile chronicling his rebound from the amputation of his right leg below the knee to return to the battlefield.
A grenade dropped through the hatch of Kapacziewski’s armored vehicle landed inches from him, and the explosion shattered his lower right leg, shredded the flesh from his hip to his upper thigh, and inflicted such nerve damage that his right arm was useless, USA Today reports.
|Army Ranger Joseph Kapacziewski is back in battle in Afghanistan, as shown in this U.S. Army Special Operations photo from 2009 shows.
Doctors feared he never would walk again, let along return to serve in the elite and demanding Army Rangers forces. Friends and acquaintances wondered whether he could fulfill his vow to return to duty.
He proved the doctors wrong in 2010, and quelled the doubts of others, when he earned an Army commendation medal, with a “V” for valor, for helping to save a wounded Ranger colleague in Afghanistan.
USA notes that “his dream is just to be a soldier — and not a war hero-slash-amputee.”
Kapacziewski tells USA Today that he understands that the Army wants him to tell his story to inspire others, but he’s uncomfortable about it.
"I really worked so hard to be a good soldier," he recently told his wife, Kimberley. "I'm afraid [now] everyone thinks of me as an amputee."
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