Joseph A. Beimfohr
2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division
August 22, 1977 – September 9, 2018
Soldiers often risk life and limb while serving on the front lines. When fighting on enemy soil, even the simplest missions can become extremely dangerous. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, enemy combatants used Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) against U.S. Soldiers. On July 5, 2005, Staff Sgt. Joseph Beimfohr was severely injured while trying to disarm a group of IEDs after returning from a mission. Though Beimfohr’s injuries cost him both of his legs, he persevered and did not let his injuries stop him from living a life he enjoyed.
Joseph Arden Beimfohr was born in Harbor City, California, in 1977, but never knew his parents. His grandmother raised him until he joined the Army in 1994. His grandfather and cousin served in the Army and from a young age, Beimfohr admired the military. As a high school student, he wanted to become a police officer, but he later saw the Army as an opportunity to receive training and money for school. Instead of completing high school, Beimfohr enlisted in the Army and signed up two days before turning 17.
After enlisting, he reported to Fort Knox, Kentucky, in 1994 to train as a cavalry scout, Soldiers who specialize in providing intelligence and surveillance in the field. In the past, cavalry scouts rode horses and patrolled the lines as Soldiers marched from battlefield to battlefield. They were often the first to engage the enemy. By the time Beimfohr served, the scouts rode in helicopters and armored vehicles rather than on horseback. After completing his training, he spent a year in South Korea serving along the Demilitarized Zone Joint Security Area. He returned to the U.S. to work as a training instructor at Fort Knox where he taught over a thousand new cavalry scouts. He later served as a recruiter for three years. While Beimfohr was a recruiter, tragedy struck on September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Two years later U.S. and coalition Soldiers invaded Iraq, launching Operation Iraqi Freedom due to the belief Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and they aided the terrorist group al-Qaeda, which was behind the attack on September 11. In August 2004, the Army reassigned Beimfohr to the 2d Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, and deployed to Iraq the following January.
Staff Sgt. Beimfohr and his unit entered Iraq as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The war in Iraq had reached its second year, and fighting was still intense. Soldiers experienced close, heavy fighting nearly every day. This was not only physically exhausting but mentally demanding as well. Along with relentless fighting, enemy soldiers took great offense when local Iraqi citizens worked with the U.S. government on infrastructure and humanitarian operations.
On July 5, 2005, Beimfohr and his unit moved into the town of Baqouba to find enemy fighters who had killed a group of American contractors. While their convoy of armored vehicles made its way back to base from the town, a lieutenant watching the road spotted three copper wires running across it, a common indicator of an IED. Beimfohr, along with Spc. Christopher W. Dickenson investigated the wires and found they were attached to a group of three IEDs. After cutting the wire in the road, Beimfohr and Dickenson traced the wire to the IEDs, but once they reached the explosives, an enemy combatant remotely detonated a buried IED near the others.
The explosion killed Dickenson and severely wounded Beimfohr. In recounting his memory of the blast, Beimfohr remembered it as a flash of light that came with a pop, but in reality, Soldiers saw and heard the explosion over seven miles away. He suffered severe injuries to both legs and was bleeding heavily under his armor. A medivac helicopter immediately dispatched to the scene and arrived on site within 15 minutes. While being airlifted to the nearest field hospital, Beimfohr prayed and accepted that he may die but promised he wouldn’t waste his life if he survived. He woke up nine days later back in the United States at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, but he had lost both of his legs.
Though Beimfohr suffered life-altering injuries, he refused to let his injuries hinder his life. He took inspiration from the wounded Soldiers around him and the promise he made to God not to let his injury stop him from living a fulfilling life. Beimfohr described his experience in an interview stating, “During that time when I was by myself and didn’t have anyone, it was probably the hardest times, and I just had faith that things would work out. I had faith in myself, and I knew that I wasn’t going to call it quits.” In all, he was in the hospital for just over three months and began walking on prosthetics in just six weeks. Though Beimfohr was limited to a wheelchair, he continued to work hard after his release from the hospital. He met his wife, Cara, during his recovery, and they had two children together. Afterward, he became a representative for Wounded Warriors in hand cycling marathons and triathlons, and in 2014 was part of the U.S. Paralympic team and won bronze at the North American championships that year.
Even though his injury changed his life forever, Beimfohr didn’t want his injury to define him and instead worked to stay positive and live a normal life. He lived this way for the rest of his life before he ultimately lost his battle with liver cancer in 2018. Though Beimfohr suffered life-changing injuries in battle, he never backed down from the fight. He embodied the Army’s core values of personal courage and selfless sacrifice, persevering through all the challenges he faced during his life.
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