DoD Features AW2 Veteran Joe Beimfohr

Photo from AW2 Veteran Joe Beimhofr's Wounded Warrior Diary

Photo from AW2 Veteran Joe Beimhofr's Wounded Warrior Diary

The Department of Defense released a new Wounded Warrior Diary yesterday that features AW2 Veteran Joe Beimfohr. The DoD Wounded Warrior Diaries series aims to share the stories of American servicemembers who have been wounded in combat and have won battles on the road to recovery. Retired SSG Joe Beimfohr’s story certainly fits that billing as he has gone from being severely injured in an IED blast in 2005 to finishing marathons and teaching self-defense to people with disabilities:

“When I woke up and I was alive, that is what changed everything — that was the last thing I asked God,” he said. “When I woke up and realized I was alive, everything else didn’t matter, because I was alive.”

During recovery, Beimfohr was different from most of his fellow wounded warriors in that he had less family support to assist him through his recovery. He said he believes this propelled him to move forward and to not feel sorry for himself. In the absence of family support, he relied on the staff at Walter Reed, peer mentors and his comrades in arms, who all helped him recover.

“During that time when I was by myself and didn’t have anyone, it was probably the hardest times, and I just had faith that things would work out,” he said. “I had faith in myself, and I knew that I wasn’t going to call it quits.”

To read the rest of AW2 Veteran Beimfohr’s story and to watch his video diary, please click here to visit the Wounded Warrior Diaries Web site on Defense.mil.

Wounded Warrior Diaries: SFC Jongema

SFC Jarrett Jongema and his Family

SFC Jarrett Jongema and his Family

AW2 Soldier SFC Jarrett Jongema was featured yesterday on DoD’s Wounded Warrior Diaries, which aims to share the stories of American servicemembers who have been wounded in combat and have won battles on the road to recovery. During SFC Jongema’s video he discusses his incredible survival and recovery from a massive car bomb that killed two and injured eight of his fellow Soldiers while on a security mission near Baghdad International Airport on September 18, 2004:

The force of the explosion blew Jongema out of the vehicle’s turret and threw him more than 50 feet away, where he was impaled on a razor-wire fence. He then bounced to the other side of the fence on the exposed side of the overpass. While hanging from the overpass, Jongema was shot several times when the group began to take fire…

Jongema said he has undergone 36 surgeries and a large amount of plastic surgery because he didn’t want anyone to know that he was injured.

“You really can’t tell I’m injured unless maybe I take [my] shirt off,” Jongema said. “I had phenomenal plastic surgeons. And that should say something about the military’s medical efforts. Look how well they’re able to put people back together.”

His entire healing process has been about maintaining and trying to get back to as normal a life as possible.

“If I can’t do something, I’ll let you know it,” he said. “As with every soldier, if there’s something that we can’t do, we’ll let you know it. But for the most part of us, those of us who are wounded and want to stay, we just want to continue to drive on. We just want you to support us with what we want to do, and at the same time understand the challenges we may have to face both physically and mentally.”

Click here to read the rest of his story on Wounded Warrior Diaries and click here to watch his video.

Proverbial Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

By AW2 Soldier Alvin Shell

I was born December 17, 1976 to Alvin and Mable Shell. I have one older Brother Alton and one younger sister Tamela. I grew up in Va. Beach Va. and went to Kellam High School. I played college football at Concord College but I transferred to Va. State University as a Junior and later graduated with a BA in Sociology in 1998. I worked at the Riverside Regional Jail then at the Richmond Sheriff’s Department in Virginia.

I began my career in the Army as an enlisted soldier. I was stationed in Germany for two years before I was accepted to (OCS) Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, GA. I was commissioned as a 2nd LT in 2002 then I went to Airborne school and directly to Fort Bragg, NC. I was a Platoon Leader in the 21st MP Co ABN and deployed with my platoon to Iraq. I traveled all over Iraq to include Baghdad, Kalsu, Fallujah, Mosul, and Basrah.

I spent most of my time in Fallujah under the command of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and fought in Operation Vigilant Resolve assisting with the siege of Fallujah. After the operation was complete, we moved to Baghdad at Camp Victory. We continued to do combat patrols and convoys. My Company Commander instituted a duty officer schedule assigning a senior NCO or Officer to go out every night on every patrol.

The night I was injured, I was not on the schedule to work. The officer that was supposed to go out got the days mixed up and she asked me to work her shift. I enjoyed patrols and the intense atmosphere so I agreed to take her shift even after my Platoon Sergeant protested vehemently. The night I went out, I went out with a platoon that was not my own. We patrolled in and out of local towns in Baghdad and finally began shadowing convoys going through the area. We saw a convoy traveling down the MSR and SSG Spaid got a funny feeling so we watched them go under a bridge. This is where the convoy and we were ambushed.

After the attack I woke up about 7-10 days later at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX. I was in ICU and could only move my left arm and feet at first. I could not talk or ever move my head around. The first thing I saw was my wife kissing me and my dad standing beside her. I rehabbed for about 18 months learning to walk and feed myself again. My mother being a speech pathologist taught me how to talk again. The road was tough and I had my fare share of setbacks but either my wife or dad stayed with me in Texas almost the entire time sacrificing their jobs and normal life to ensure I got better.

My wife’s dad William Miller “Chill” sacrificed his way of life and moved into my home to take care of my children while my wife stayed with me. When I could live unassisted, my children moved to Texas to live with me in the Fisher House. We lived the last months together in Texas then moved back to Fort Bragg where I was medically discharged from the Army. I have a 100% disability rating from VA.

I was hired by the Department of Homeland Security. The individuals who hired me, Jerry Williams and Jeffery Purdie, took a chance on me and hired me over the phone after a series of interviews. I remember answering their questions directly after a failed surgery on my arm, I was on a morphine drip and began repeating “don’t say anything stupid” in my head. They appeared to be impressed enough that they made a commitment to me over the phone. I guess I didn’t say anything stupid :). All they asked me was what kind of special assistance did I need while at work. I said something to the effect of “all I need is a fair chance and I will be fine.” While at DHS I have been promoted to a Program Manager in the Force Protection Branch. I have completed FLETC training in Georgia. and I am a certified Federal Criminal Investigator.

I now have a great life with my wife Danielle and my three children Sean, Tre`, and Jachin. My family and my wife’s family are my constant crutch through life. I feel like a proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes. The only difference is I will live forever through the unwavering love my wife has for me in her eyes, the ambitions of Sean my oldest son, the balance of strength and emotional love from my second son Tre` which he displays daily, the unconditional love and affection Jachin show every day, and finally the look of approval in my parents face.

I was handicapped before I was injured in Iraq. The fire opened my eyes and made me appreciate every step and every breath I take.

Editors Note: AW2 Soldier Alvin Shell was was recently featured in the Department of Defense’s Wounded Warrior Diaries video series. Click here to watch his featured video on Wounded Warrior Diaries.

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