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“You can’t just sit there and be paralyzed with fear, because you’re going to get everybody killed.” (Audio Interview, 22:10)

   Joseph Arden Beimfohr
Collection image
Joseph Beimfohr in front of Saddam's palace, Tikrit, Iraq
War: Iraq War, 2003-2011
Branch: Army
Unit: 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division
Service Location: Fort Riley, Kansas; Iraq
Rank: Staff Sergeant
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Joseph Beimfohr enlisted in the Army two days after his 17th birthday, with the approval of his grandmother, who had raised him. He did two tours of duty in Korea in a forward force that was on alert at all times. In August 2004, he arrived at Ft. Riley, Kansas, to train for duty in Iraq. Encouraged that he was working with experienced and dedicated men, he landed in country in January 2005. There he did more forward scouting, only this time under real rather than anticipated fire. What he learned from his experiences was that soldiers have to trust their training and instincts. In July he lost both legs to an explosion, and Beimfohr subsequently learned that the only limitations in his life were self-imposed.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (9 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (77 min.)
»Photo Album  (15 photos)
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 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (9 items)
Family tradition of serving in the military; ultimate goal was to become a police officer; joined to get experience and money for school; enlisting two days after his 17th birthday; basic training at Ft. Knox; cavalry scout, eyes and ears of army, keeping higher command informed of enemy in area; learning skills that would apply beyond the Army. (02:56) In Korea with the most forward assets, closest to the DMZ; had curfew, no weekend passes; alerts could be a war or just a drill; was there for a year; came back to Knox and became an instructor for several years. (02:16) Watching the beginning of the Iraq War on TV, seeing the unit he was supposed to join marching into Baghdad; could see how poorly equipped the Iraqi Army was; thinks the U.S. will be there for many years; after a second tour of Korea, on to Ft. Riley, and deploying to Iraq; marital problems; after he was injured, his wife came to see him for a week in the hospital and he never saw her again; they eventually got divorced in 2006; grateful that he was alone at Walter Reed and learned independence. (03:53)
Training for his deployment to Iraq, including with Special Forces personnel; his job was clearing villages and houses, looking for the enemy; in Baquba, about 35 miles north of Baghdad, mostly rural province outside the city; clearing travel routes of IEDs; confiscating weapons beyond the allotted one AK47 per household; most people want the U.S. forces there but are afraid of threats from the few bad apples; urging his men to overcome fear and act rather than hesitate in a tight situation. (07:28) How he was injured in July 2005; doing a search of a town outside Baquba; local contractors they had paid to pave roads had been executed, their bodies left in the open; Beimfohr and his men went out very early one morning in search of the perpetrators; as they left town, his lieutenant saw a copper wire on the road and they discovered a daisy chain of IEDs; another bomb went off after they cut the wire; got hit with rock and debris; shrapnel hit him below his bullet-proof vest and in his leg. (13:50) His medic was about 2 miles back in the convoy, which was spread out; his own guys packed his wounds with gauze and treated him with a substance that clotted the blood quickly; had lost his left leg, his right leg was shattered; struggling to look at his wounds; recalled he had not brought his ID card or dog tags with him that day, so he told his flight nurse his blood type--"B positive"--which his men thought was him yelling encouraging words to them. (08:26)
Evacuated to the hospital, thinking he might die; at the hospital he was given encouragement as he went into surgery—and woke up 8 days later in Walter Reed; both legs had been amputated. (05:10) Has learned not to put limitations on himself, to overcome his injuries. (02:23) What was found later at the explosion site; it could have been much worse had they not cut the first wire; does not have nightmares or flashbacks; refusing to be bitter about what happened; he took one for the team; went to Ft. Riley, where his unit is based; his medic told him he never thought Beimfohr would have lived; saw guys who might have been dead had he not done his job that day. (00:56)

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  October 26, 2011
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