Joshua F. Andrew’s Biosketch
My name is Josh, and I was born in Longview, Washington, June 13, 1986. I moved to Castle Rock, Washington when I was two-years-old and was raised there until I reached age 19. I spent a lot of time around my grandparents. Grandpa was in the Navy during World War II. Even though I never heard him talk about the war, I quickly learned from him to respect our nation’s colors and what they represent.
I joined the Army in April 2008 as an Infantry Recruit at the age of 22. I went to Basic Training and Infantry School in Ft Benning, Georgia. Upon completion of my training, I was stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany in September 2008, where I was assigned to Task Force 1-2 Infantry. From there, I was deployed to Iraq in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 08-10 in November 2008.
In Iraq, we spent most of our time patrolling Main Supply Route (MSR) Tampa on foot and in vehicles. We would fan out off the highway and simply walk anywhere from 5 to 14 kilometers, then cross Tampa and walk back down the highway another 5 to 14 kilometers. Our vehicles would provide over-watch from the MSR for the troops dismounted on the ground. We were constantly looking for landmines and improvised explosive device (IED) caches. During downtime while we were on the Forward Operating Base (FOB), we would experience from 4 to15 rockets and mortars shot at us daily, so on a daily basis, we would throw our kits on and head to the bunkers. It was common for a rocket to land on the FOB and impact right next to a bathroom or living area. We actually lost one soldier in the Battalion that way towards the end of our tour.
We spent our rotations at FOB Echo and Camp Endeavor. Endeavor was nice because it was staffed only by our Company and morale was better. While there, we did not get any more rockets shot at us, but we did get hit by IEDs. On one of our patrols into the city of Najaf, we passed by a neatly placed an Explosively Formed Projectile (EFP) that we did not notice until we were heading back to the camp. We were returning from an Iraqi Police Academy Graduation. I believe it was one of Iraq’s first graduating classes, so it was a pretty big deal to them.
The EFP struck one of our trucks, and it just threw the vehicle across the road like it was a paperweight. A handful of us got checked at the Aid Station after the MEDIVAC, and some of us were given 24-hour quarters. I suffered from what they said to be “post-concussion syndrome.” Today the military just calls it traumatic brain injury (TBI). I struggled a bit with daily tasks when I redeployed back to Germany. I was screened again for TBI following medical briefings, and they determined me to be fit for duty. So I spent the next six months completing small arms density, which is marksmanship with weapons .50 Caliber and below.
I next moved to Grafenwoehr Germany as part of a Base Realignment and Closure. We trained there for a good part of 18 months. I broke my tibia where it connects with my knee joint when we were in the field. After convalescing for two weeks, I linked back up with my soldiers and continued training. Shortly thereafter, in July 2011, I was deployed to Afghanistan.
While in Afghanistan, a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) hit my position, and it knocked me straight on my ass. Within two days after returning to the Combat Operating Post (COP), my knee blew out again. I would take a few days off and, as soon as I could walk again, I would go right back on patrols. Over the next 5 months, I suffered four more knee dislocations and I had to see the Brigade Surgeon. He diagnosed me with sciatic nerve damage from the RPG that had hit my position earlier during my tour.
I returned to Grafenwoehr in May 2012. At this point, I could barely walk, having blown my knee out a total of five times in nine months. I rehabbed myself three times a day in the gym. After three months, I was almost jogging. I transferred to the Ft. Lewis Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) to undergo a Medical Board.
I still have physical and psychological issues, but I find therapy in coaching others and competing in athletics. I continue my athletics training and compete for the Army. I was selected to the Army Track and Field Team in March 2013. I currently throw the shot put and discus. I hope to represent the United States Paralympic Team in track and field events after I transition out of the Army.