Meet Joe Kapacziewski, The First And Only Amputee In Army’s History To Return To Combat

Meet Joe Kapacziewski, The First And Only Amputee In Army’s History To Return To Combat

Sergeant First Class Joseph R. Kapacziewski gives ‘Army Strong’ a whole new meaning. He is the first and only amputee to ever return to combat. Serving a total of 10 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kapacziewski has received numerous medals and awards, including three Purple Hearts, two Army Commendation Medal and a Bronze Star Medal.

Meet Joe Kapacziewski, The First And Only Amputee In Army's History To Return To Combat


His new book, “Back in the Fight: The Explosive Memoir of a Special Operator Who Never Gave Up,” is a full account of his 10 years of service. He tells of his experience in the Rangers, the accident that cost him his leg, and the strength he needed when he decided to return to service.

Born in Durham, Connecticut, Kapacziewski enlisted in the U.S. Army in September 2001, straight out of high school. He then went on to complete his training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Throughout his tours he has served as a Rifleman, Grenadier, Squad Automatic Rifleman, Squad Leader, and Platoon Sergeant.

Then, on October 3, 2005 in Northern Iraq, just as his team were coming to the end of their tour, Kapacziewski’s convoy was ambushed. An enemy grenade fell through the gunner’s hatch in his Stryker vehicle and exploded.

Sergeant Kapacziewski took severe damage to his right arm and leg. It ripped apart the brachial artery and nerve in his right arm and shattered his right leg below the knee, damaging his hip in the process.

He was transported to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in D.C. where he spent 7 months before returning to Fort Benning. For two years, despite over 40 surgeries, his leg would not heal. In March 2007, he allowed doctors to amputate and was moved to the Brooke Army Medical Center for 6 months of physical therapy. There, he learned how to use a prosthetic, not just so he can walk, but in the hopes that he may one day return to serve alongside his fellow Rangers—that had been his goal all along.

To return to his squad leader position, he had to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test which included a 5-mile run in under 40 minutes, 12-mile road march in less than 3 hours, fast rope out of a helicopter, and parachute with a 45-pound combat load. It was a test no other Ranger in his condition had ever passed. It was his hardest fight yet.

Within ten months he had completed the physical test and soon after he was back in the action, as squad leader of his Army Ranger Regiment. He went on to do five more tours with his prosthetic leg.

Today he lives in Columbus, Georgia with his wife, Kim, and his two sons, Wyatt and Cody.

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Despite the loss of a leg, Army Ranger is back in the fight| USA Today
Meet Joe Kapacziewski, The First Man In Army History To Return To Combat After An Amputation| PAT Dollar