ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - Josh Eckhoff uses his cane to slowly get to his feet and make his way to the podium at the AT&T Center in downtown St. Louis.
That simple act of walking can be considered to be a miracle after what happened to Josh, a 2003 graduate of Parkway South High School, on Feb. 6th 2008 as he rode in a military vehicle in Iraq.
The explosion of a dual-array IED sent a glob of molten copper into the vehicle, where he was riding in the front passenger seat.
“It came through and hit me on the right side of my Kevlar helmet, actually concaving the helmet into the right hemisphere of my brain,” Josh explained prior to Thursday’s AT&T ceremony honoring veterans.
He survived but after eventually waking up in the hospital Josh found that he’d become as helpless as a toddler due his extremely critical brain injury.
“I started from scratch and had to relearn everything from walking and talking to feeding myself…the whole gamut,” Eckhoff said. “I went through a number of very incredible physical therapists. It’s been a long-fought battle to get back to where I’m now able to ambulate with and without a cane.”
Even though it would seem he has every right to, Josh Eckhoff spends zero amount of his time feeling sorry for himself.
Instead he works with the St. Louis-based Joshua Chamberlain Society (www.chamberlainsociety.org) to help other soldiers who find themselves in the same situation that he does.
“We actually adopt wounded and critically-injured service members like myself from the St. Louis area,” Eckhoff said. “Because a lot of times when troops like myself return home there’s this huge outpouring of support for us in the first three-to-five weeks, but then that all dies away.”
Back to the AT&T ceremony — Josh takes the podium to a standing ovation from hundreds of people packing the lobby.
His remarks are brief but heartfelt as he explains that he has no regrets about volunteering to join the military, despite what happened to him.
“Service to me has always been the right thing to do,” Eckhoff says. “I always felt like if I didn’t serve in this all-volunteer force…who was going to?”
Josh Eckhoff will serve as the Grand Marshal of the St. Louis Veterans’ Day parade, which steps off from the Veterans’ Memorial downtown at 12 noon on Saturday, Nov. 10th.