Josh OlsonBefore his injury, Sergeant First Class Josh Olson described himself as someone “who did everything he could to excel and become a better soldier. It’s a life, not just a job.” Deployed to Iraq as part of the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne, he knew there was danger and “always a chance something can happen, but you don’t think about it because you might hesitate, half-step, or cut a corner and really put another guy in your unit in danger. Everyone has a letter for their family, but they put it away and don’t think about it.” On October 27, 2003, the young soldier was on patrol near Tel Afar, Iraq, when a rocket propelled grenade struck his truck. He dismounted to return fire and a second RPG round exploded and took his right leg off at the hip.
Josh spent the next 18 months at Walter Read Army Medical Center (WRAMC), undergoing rehabilitation and working with prosthetists. “It’s pretty amazing what the human body can do when there are obstacles put in its way. In a way, it’s almost amusing how things evolve,” Josh says.
To aid in his rehabilitation, Josh was flown to POA to work with Stan Patterson to design a prosthesis that would allow Josh to return to active duty in the Army’s marksmanship unit. The initial design, says Stan, “allowed us to achieve lower socket trim lines and a much lighter socket. The second stage of the design incorporated all of the above along with elevated vacuum, to allow a significant increase in function and a more energy-efficient gait. Josh walked independently in the new design, something he was unable to accomplish prior to coming to Orlando. “We coined the name Olson Design because of Josh’s necessity, and as they say, necessity is the mother of all inventions,” Stan added.
For the future, Josh wants to stay in the Army as long as he can. “I want to prove that hip disartics still have a place in the Army,” he says. Because of his advanced marksmanship skills, Josh has had “Tons of opportunities. I never thought I’d be able to train and compete as a world-class shooter.” Now back on active duty at Ft. Benning, Josh is “brushing up the marksmanship skills of National Guard Reserve troops before they deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. I think if I help one person learn skills that will save their life or a buddy’s life all my effort (physical therapy, multiple surgeries and working with the Medical Evaluation Board to stay on active duty) will all be worth it.”
Josh has also had the opportunity to help future generations of amputees by assisting in the development of the Olson Design vacuum socket which allows hip disarticulation amputees to have a socket that is more cosmetic and “very cutting edge.”
Josh Olson was the first active duty service member nominated to represent Team USA in shooting at the 2012 Paralympic Games, which will begin on August 29. POA’s NPS hip disarticulate prosthetic system, also known as “the Olson socket,” was developed for Josh by Stan Patterson in response to a request from Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital. The following video link shows Josh preparing for a day of shooting practice, which includes donning his prosthetic leg.
Click here to read U.S. Shooting article, "Iraq War Veteran Josh Olson Earns 2012 Paralympic Nomination," 1/18/2012
Click on following link for accompanying Washington Post article, "An RPG took Josh Olson's Leg but not his Spirit," dated 8/21/2012 Washington Post article on Josh Olson