In 2007 Joel and his Army sniper partner were tracking two guys. It was 110-degrees outside with zero humidity. The enemy had AK47s and were lying in the prone position only 10 meters away. Joel followed his nose to find them. But all he could smell was earth and burnt grass. Then there was body odor.
In knee-high grass, Joel turned right to follow the stench. In a split-second scent and sight collided. The enemy spotted Joel and his partner and the firefight began instantaneously. The shooter hit Joel’s right knee twice, destroying his knee and severing the femoral artery. Another round penetrated his left knee. The final—and worst round—pierced under his arm, ricocheted inside his rib cage down to his pelvic bone. They returned fire and those guys were finished. Joel collapsed at that point.
Two platoons donated all the plasma Joel needed before being medi-vac’d to Walter Reed in Bethesda. His right leg had to be amputated and although his body healed quickly, it took less than 8 weeks for his leg to heal for a prosthetic fitting his mind did not. Amputation was the least of my injuries," he said. ", but my mind—it wasn’t ready for that yet."
One person motivated Joel to get his head back in the game, though. “He was a Cold War veteran,” Joel says. “He was a mentor.” He told Joel: “The hospital isn’t designed to heal you 100%. Don’t expect it to fix you. Don’t wait forever in the hospital to feel better.” That phone call led Joel to fight for recovery and to find his stride again.
A follow-up call to Walter Reed led him to ACV. “After the flight in March (2014), he found out about track and field and got started right away.” His first competition was in May. Now he runs 5Ks and competes for long jump; he took the bronze at the national level his first year.
If it had not been for ACV Joel said he probably would have ended up walking on one leg that wasn’t aligned. “You were able to impact a life like mine in such a way that I don’t have to think about my disability for the next several years. ACV will always be in my prayers and on my radar.”