ESPN Athlete of the Year & Iraqi Veteran JR Salzman Won't Let IED Keep Him Down

In the summer of 2005 JR Salzman won his 14th medal at the Great Outdoor Games and tied for the most medals ever won there. JR won the ESPY Award for “Best Outdoor Sport’s Athlete” from ESPN that year. He even got to be in a movie and log roll with Steve Martin.

But, in the fall of 2005 he was called to serve his country in Iraq.
Soon life would change for this “Lumberjack in the Desert”.

Despite losing his right hand in Iraq, a UW-Stout student has no regrets about serving his country. Now he’s set his sights on a teaching career and a return to logrolling. (Photo- Leader Telegram)

I was honored to meet J. R. Salzman, ESPN Outdoor Sportsman of the Year and Iraqi War veteran, earlier this year and talk with him about his experiences (Video HERE).
Today, the Leader-Telegram follows up with this American hero:

Two years ago, Darrell “J.R.” Salzman signed up for classes at UW-Stout and was within two weeks of starting school.

Then the Hayward native received notice he was to be deployed to Iraq with his Minnesota National Guard brigade.

He dropped his classes, and about a month after school was to start he was at Camp Shelby in Mississippi. Six months later, in April 2006, he was deployed to Iraq.

Salzman lost his right hand and the ring finger on his left hand in a roadside bombing while escorting a convoy, but he has returned to UW-Stout to start a major in technology education and, despite his injury, believes in the U.S. mission in Iraq.

While in Iraq, Salzman, an infantryman, was helping patrol the major road from northern to southern Iraq until Dec. 19, 2006, when he was injured by a bomb.

“We were escorting a convoy of 20 fuel tankers back south to Tallil Air Base in south Iraq,” Salzman recalled, noting he was the navigator. “We were closing into northwest Baghdad. I was talking to my team, and the next second I was waking up. I couldn’t reach the door handle because my hand was gone.”

Salzman estimated he was knocked out less than 15 seconds after his Humvee was hit by a bomb designed to pierce armor.

After he regained consciousness, Salzman alerted two others in the Humvee that he needed a medic and tourniquet immediately.

“When I first woke up, the gunner was scratching at his legs and yelling obscenities,” Salzman recalled. “The shrapnel had sprayed his legs. The bones in my hand became some of that shrapnel lodged in his legs.”

“I lose pieces of my memory sometimes,” he said. “I get them back sometimes, and sometimes I don’t get them back. It’s like your mind is Swiss cheese.”

He also has difficulty sleeping because in Iraq most convoys moved at night. Also, he has some phantom pain where his right hand was, which he equates to feeling like frostbite.

To cope with his injuries, Salzman, who was medically discharged earlier this month and is considered 90 percent disabled, said he breaks it down and accepts it.

“Stuff happens,” he said. “I don’t regret going into the military and getting deployed.”

“I am really proud of what I’ve done. I’d do it all over again.

Hat Tip Mudville Gazette

Previously on Hero JR Salzman:
Lumberjack Down But Not Out
An Interview With JR Salzman: ESPN “Outdoor Sportsman of the Year” & American Hero

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