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Face of Defense: Army Sniper Finds Lesson in Injury, Recovery

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

NEW YORK, Dec. 3, 2008 – Army Sgt. Joel Dulashanti is, in his own words, “pretty much fully recovered” now, but the road to recovery was neither short nor easy. It did, however, provide him with a life lesson.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, presents a flag flown over Ground Zero in New York City to Army Sgt. Joel Dulashanti after a brief ceremony at the site for a group of wounded veterans. The ceremony was part of a United Service Organizations-Microsoft "Salute to Our Troops" weekend, Nov. 8, 2008. DoD photo by Samantha L. Quigley
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“There is no reason to waste time in life being sad, or depressed, or angry,” the 22-year-old soldier said. “Life’s too short, and you learn that through those experiences. You’ve got to … decide to be happy.”

Dulashanti, a Cincinnati native, could have had a very different outlook on his situation.

Then a corporal, Dulashanti was deployed to Afghanistan as a sniper with the 82nd Airborne Division in May 2007. His platoon was near the Pakistan border when he and his partner were ambushed.

“We were dismounted, chasing down two guys, and they just happened to ambush us before we could ambush them,” he said. “I was shot three times; through my left knee, through my right knee – which resulted in an above-knee amputation -- and once in my abdomen.”

The latter injury caused the loss of abdominal muscle as well as the loss of part of his stomach and intestines.

Between the attack and Dulashanti’s arrival at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, there were stops at Orgun-E and Bagram in Afghanistan. The whole process took a day. After a four-day stay at Landstuhl, he arrived at Washington’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center on May 8, 2007, where his family met him.

He was still an inpatient when President George W. Bush presented him with his Purple Heart medal on July 3, 2007; something he remembers as “pretty cool.”

“It does mean a little bit to me,” Dulashanti said. “I gave something to get that, but a lot of other people have them [too]. It’s actually one of the few things that is actually given to you that you’ve … earned, but didn’t put any work into it,” he added flashing a million-dollar smile.

The former distance runner and weightlifter spent part of his recovery learning how to walk on his new prosthetic leg, but it wasn’t long before he wanted to take up another of his favorite activities again.

“I used to rollerblade a lot, [and] I continue to rollerblade a lot,” he said. “It was weird, because there aren’t any above-knee amputees that rollerblade, so I was the first.

“It was kind of difficult coming up with a prosthetic to use,” he continued, “but I worked with my prosthetist and [one was developed through] trial and error.” Dulashanti estimated the whole process took about a month.

Running is still difficult, he said, but he’s determined to get back to it soon. He’d also like to get back to active duty, as well.

“I just started my medical board,” he said. “Hopefully, cross my fingers, it won’t be another six months. So, we’ll see where that takes me. I’ll get my feet wet again, and we’ll go from there, but I would like to get back into the field and operate again as a sniper.”

For now, though, it’s a waiting game, and to fill the time he’s taking classes in general education.

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