Joe Kapacziewski: A Living Leg-end

KAPMeet the first man in Army history who returned to combat after an amputation:

Army Ranger Joe Kapacziewski had volunteered to “take care” of the Taliban snipers who had ambushed his platoon in the pitch darkness on a Hindu Kush mountain ridge in Afghanistan in 2009.

But as he raced down the mountainside, aiming to cut the enemy off at the pass below, he was caught in an avalanche of loose shale and tumbled down.

To stop his fall and save himself, he grabbed a tree — and came face-to-face with one of the Taliban snipers who had been hiding behind it.

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With his free hand, the staff sergeant aimed his M4 rifle and shot the sniper dead. “Kap,” as he was fondly nicknamed, then dashed back up the steep slope to his men under fire.

It was a Herculean feat even the fittest soldier would have been hard-pressed to pull off. For Kapacziewski, it was something miraculous.

The 30-year-old Dunham, Conn., native is the only amputee in Army Rangers history ever to return to combat. He has served in five tours while wearing a prosthesis that replaced his right leg below the knee.

In his gripping new memoir, “Back in the Fight” (St. Martin’s Press), he describes hunting Taliban targets, leading a squad and even saving a wounded soldier — all without a leg.

All told, Kapacziewski has served 10 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and has received three purple hearts, an Army Commendation Medal with a V for valor and a bronze star.

Kap was wounded in Iraq in 2005 after a grenade was tossed into his Stryker vehicle. It ripped apart his arm, which eventually healed — though his leg did not. He resisted losing the limb, despite the excruciating pain. Two years later, he finally made the decision to allow doctors to amputate.

“When I first got hurt it was my goal all along to…



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