SGT (Ret.) Rick Yarosh*, USA

SGT (Ret.) Rick Yarosh*, USA
U.S. Army
Windsor, New York

* Home Grant Recipient

SGT Rick Yarosh joined the Army as a Cavalry scout in 2004. September 1, 2006 found then Private First Class (PFC) Yarosh manning the turret of a Bradley assault vehicle. He was out on patrol going down a road the unit had been on “a million times”. Richard and his group had been in Iraq since December of 2005. He started as a driver when they first arrived in Iraq, later becoming the gunner. They had been patrolling in Abu Ghraib region of Iraq when the Bradley he manned was hit by a roadside bomb.

The fuel tank blew, engulfing not only the Bradley in flames, but also Richard as well, who jumped blindly from the turret. In the process of jumping from the Bradley, he broke his leg, severing an artery. To compound that, he was on fire, engulfed in flames. Rolling around in the dirt next to the vehicle, Sgt. Yarosh couldn’t get the fire on his body out. There was too much fuel around him. He finally gave up trying to put out the flames, instead choosing to lie there, excepting that this might be the end for him.

“I wasn’t in pain. I could accept the fact that I was going to go. This was how the Lord would take me,” he said.

For reasons unknown even to himself, Sgt. Yarosh took one more roll to his right, which caused him to fall into a canal, extinguishing the flames. As the other soldiers reached him and pulled him from the canal, his body armor fell away, nothing left but ash. Nothing short of a miracle Richard Yarosh was still alive.

Richard spent two years Brooke Army Medical Center in an Army burn unit, undergoing full-time treatment and rehabilitation. As a result of severing an artery in his leg when he jumped from the turret of the Bradley vehicle, part of his leg had to be amputated. He sustained burns over 70% of his body, including his head, upper body, arms and hands.

Today, his hands are bent and rigid, with the tips of several digits missing. He lost his ears and the tips of his nose. He has multiple scars on his face and endures many stares when he goes out. ”I know people are curious,” he says. “They’ll stop in their tracks and look. I guess I can understand. I probably would have stared, too.”