JOSHUA STEIN Corporal US Army (Ret.)
“Hero’s Ride of a Lifetime” Nominated Vetera
Two things retired army corporal Joshua Stein always liked were banging into people and blowing things up, but life made other plans for him more than once.
Son of a soldier, Josh was raised all over the world. He met Nicole while attending high school in Saipan, enlisted in the army while seeking opportunity on the mainland, then flew back to marry her after completing basic training. Following training as a 12B combat engineer, they reported to the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. Josh deployed to Iraq with the Iron Knights of 1-66 Armor in December, 2005.
On Easter Sunday, 2006, Josh was driving a Bradley armored vehicle, filled with soldiers headed to celebrate a field mass with the unit chaplain, when an explosively-formed penetrator charge struck his vehicle. The superheated weapon sheared off both his legs, cauterizing them instantly. Josh was evacuated by helicopter with a field tourniquet on every limb, his heart stopping twice. After stabilizing him, trauma surgeons at Balad, Iraq were able to save Josh’s badly injured arms through multiple surgeries, but both legs were gone.
When he awoke from his coma at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, Josh couldn’t understand why his family was there – his last memories were of Iraq, and he didn’t know he’d been transported. It took months for him to regain the use of his hands, but eventually he re-learned to draw.
Josh deferred receiving his Purple Heart until his unit returned from war, standing to salute them so they knew he had felt their support all the way.
Josh’s drawing progressed and he became an accomplished tattoo artist, pursuing that until a rollover accident in 2008 permanently damaged his spine. Never content to sit around, Josh then took up sled hockey, playing for the San Antonio Rampage for several years until a concussion ended his days of banging around. Concussions are cumulative, and a lifetime of sports and military trauma adds up.
While at the tattoo shop, Josh found another interest: motorcycles. Bikes represented freedom in a way that few other pursuits could offer. His father and grandfather had both been riders, and the family had run a motorcycle shop on Guam. Jumping in with both prostheses, Josh not only commissioned a custom trike for the road, but enrolled himself in the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI), industry standard for bike mechanics in the U.S.A. He will graduate this summer on July 7, 2017 and return to Texas to ride with family and friends. All four of Josh’s children, as well as his wife, also ride motorcycles.
The hardest part of Josh’s path has never been the doorways that closed, but the darkness that can chase a combat veteran’s dreams. Fortunately for each of them, he met and befriended Neil Frustaglio when both were flying out of San Antonio to interview with the Homes for Our Troops program. Now, courtesy of Veterans Charity Ride, the two buddies are slated to ride together to the 77th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in a specially adapted Indian Scout, equipped with an Avenger sidecar. They’ll trade off riding shotgun, two military men with bodies made old too soon but hearts forever young, each on a Hero’s Ride of a Lifetime.
Josh described VCR’s effort as “one of those rides that you don’t even believe really exists. “It doesn’t even seem real. You get a bunch of vets together and you’re gonna go to Sturgis? Are you serious?!” Josh added, “You get to spend this whole time with other veterans, like-minded people. It’s absolutely great.” “I get to take my best friend on this trip, too.”