OTF Soldier Story for November 29, 2010 - Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Kapacziewski
Current Unit: 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment
Current Position: Platoon Sergeant
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Fort Benning, Ga.
Hometown: Durham, Conn.
Years of Service: 9
When Staff Sgt. Joe Kapacziewski headed out on a mission Oct. 3, 2005, it seemed like an average day in Iraq. As his squad went under a bridge, the unit was ambushed and a grenade detonated just a few feet away from Kapacziewski. For Kapacziewski, the attack set in a motion an extensive recovery process that would forever change the Ranger—yet what didn’t change despite the incident was his commitment to his fellow Rangers and his desire to serve his country.
Due to damage from the detonation, Kapacziewski underwent more than 40 surgeries to repair the shattered bones and damaged ligaments and tendons before his right leg was finally amputated. In addition to the amputation, his injuries included a severed median nerve and brachial artery in his right arm and deep tissue wounds on his hip. Kapacziewski was awarded three Purple Hearts for his injuries and also received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for his meritorious service and leadership.
Today, Kapacziewski continues to lead Rangers on special operations and infantry missions—with his prosthetic leg.
“Despite my injuries, I still serve because our nation is at war. It was never an option for me to get out,” he said. “I have watched my Ranger buddies pay the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of our nation and I would not be able to look at myself in the mirror if I was not out there living the Ranger Creed and hunting down terrorists. There are a lot of Soldiers that are in worse condition than me who would love to be able to go back overseas.”
He is grateful for the support that his brothers in arms and his family, particularly his wife provided throughout his recovery process.
“My whole family has been great. They have supported me from the day I signed the dotted line, through all my surgeries and recovery, and only gave me a little bit of a hard time when I told them I was going back to combat with a prosthetic leg,” he said. “Also, if it wasn’t for my chain of command supporting my recovery and return to the line, I would have been medically boarded out of the Army.”
The Soldier joined the Army in 2001, and has served with the 75th Ranger Regiment for his entire military career.
“Being part of the 75th Ranger Regiment means everything to me. I have had the privilege to serve in the Regiment for nine years now and cannot imagine doing any other job in the military. I love waking up every morning and going to work with 600 of my best friends,” he said.
Kapacziewski will deploy to Afghanistan in early 2011 as a Ranger platoon sergeant, a role to which he was recently promoted. While this will be his second deployment as a platoon sergeant, he has previously deployed to the Middle East six times, including three since his amputation.
“Being a platoon sergeant is the best job I’ve had in the Army and I am thankful my Chain of Command had the confidence in me to put me in this position,” Kapacziewski said. “My goal for this upcoming deployment is rid the world of as many terrorists as possible in the time we are over there. I will lead my fellow Rangers by setting the example in all we do and by being relentless in the pursuit of our enemies.”
Since being injured, Kapacziewski has also completed three triathlons and earlier this month, he finished the New York Marathon on behalf of the Lead the Way Fund, a non-profit organization established to raise funds in support of disabled U.S. Army Rangers and the families of Rangers who have died, have been injured or are currently serving in harm’s way around the world.
“Races and triathlons have helped to keep me motivated to get in shape. I never really participated in these types of events before, but I was given different opportunities after losing my leg. I enjoy competing and each race is a new challenge, they keep me motivated,” he said.