Rob Taylor/The Daily Reflector
Nathan Rimpf has seen this crowd brought to its feet before. As a kid, he would make the trip from Raleigh to East Carolina University to root for his brother, Brian.
But on Saturday, the cheers at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium were for Nathan — not applause for an athlete, but a salute to a soldier.
Nathan Rimpf, a 2010 ECU graduate, was among those honored during Military Appreciation Day. Fitted with prosthetic legs and feet, the Army first lieutenant stepped out onto the field for the coin toss less than four months after stepping on an explosive device in Afghanistan.
Rimpf, 24, is making incredible strides toward recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. A week ago, he pedaled Washington, D.C.’s Army Ten-Miler on a hand cycle. He plans to be able to run it again by next year. In the meantime, he is relearning scuba and taking up kayaking.
“There was one week where I tried almost all the sports at the hospital that I was remotely interested in,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I’ve got to stay busy or I’m going to go crazy or just Facebook my life away.
“I want to wear my legs around and climb mountains and stuff and sky dive.”
What Rimpf credits for helping him want to aspire to those heights is his Christian faith and a strong foundation of support from family, friends and even strangers.
“God continuously put people in front of me at the right time,” he said. “I would start being negative, and then all of a sudden somebody would show up and change my attitude or nudge my attitude back in the right direction.”
Messages have come in through the website caringbridge.org, which his mother, Cindy, updates with progress reports and prayer requests. More than 2,000 people have “liked” the Nathan Rimpf Support Fund page on Facebook.
“I got cards from an entire church in Minnesota, and I’ve haven’t even been to Minnesota,” Rimpf said.
“Everybody’s praying for me. It’s not really the metal and plastic of my prosthetics that’s holding me up. It’s all the support I’m getting from across the country.”
Closer to home, supporters are wearing “1 LT NATHAN RIMPF” wristbands to show their support. An ECU professor has dedicated a furniture exhibition and sale to the wounded warrior.
Steve Duncan, ECU’s assistant vice chancellor for administration and finance and military programs, is not surprised to see Rimpf bolstered by the response he has received. Still Duncan, who knew Nathan as an ROTC cadet and attended his commissioning ceremony, said Rimpf possesses an amazing inner strength as well.
“He’s what you put out there as a poster child for ROTC,” Duncan said. “He’s got that attitude, that mental toughness.
“He’s been a top cadet,” he said. “He’s a lieutenant that stepped on the wrong spot, but that hasn’t changed his mind.”
Being a soldier has been on Rimpf’s mind since childhood. Though his family was not steeped in military service (only one great uncle had been in the Army before Rimpf enlisted), Rimpf had always seemed drawn to it. Cindy Rimpf recalls Nathan Rimpf being fascinated by the military since he got Army men and a G.I. Joe at age 8. When Rimpf got to high school, he let his parents know that his interest was more than child’s play.
His school had no Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, so Rimpf enrolled in a program at a nearby school, dividing his day between Leesville Road and Wake Forest high schools. After a semester, the school asked Rimpf to be its JROTC leader.
The pattern continued at ECU, where Rimpf attended on an ROTC scholarship, turning down offers from North Carolina State and Kentucky. After graduation, he was commissioned and went to Ranger school. When he arrived on post at Fort Riley, Kansas, he got his own platoon.
via The Daily Reflector.