Unsung Hero

In June 2005, 19-year-old Rob Kislow was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne on patrol in the mountains of Afghanistan very close to the Pakistan border. The mission was to hunt down elements of the Taliban. A firefight broke out, and one of Rob’s closest friends was shot in the face and killed immediately. As the team maneuvered into a defensive formation another volley of fire from the Kalashnikovs rained into them. Rob took a round to the back of his head, along his right forearm, and a third through his leg just above the ankle. He told me that he didn’t remember much after that.

Rob was saved from instant death by his Kevlar helmet, but his brain was bruised and he suffered lapses of memory and the ability to concentrate. His right arm and hand were severely damaged and required reconstructive surgery. His leg had a hole through it the size of a golf ball where the bone had been blown away. Rob volunteered to be a medical guinea pig to see if his lower leg and foot could be salvaged. Thirteen months after he was shot the decision was made to amputate the leg. He faced his 21st birthday with one leg, a reoccurring neurological disorder from the head wound and a withered right arm—and a very uncertain future.

I’ve just spent the past four days with Rob, shooting prairie dogs and exchanging stories. Several of the stories will go no further than the two of us. What I have seen in this 26-year-old man is more maturity and seasoning than I have in men twice his age, along with a boyish enthusiasm that is infectious. The look on his face when he nailed his first prairie dog is one I should never forget.

With his titanium prosthesis he finished the grueling Tough Mudder obstacle course—reputedly the most difficult and abusive test of physical strength, agility and toughness a civilian can undergo. He scratches out a living for himself and his new family in Pennsylvania. And Rob has a passion for hunting and shooting.

Rob is a hero, though he doesn’t seek attention or accolades. And it’s not just because he got shot to pieces on some lonely mountain halfway around the world. Rob is a hero because he doesn’t let any of the trauma turn into drama. His attitude is simply, “Screw it, let’s go!”

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1 Response to Unsung Hero

DSMbirddog wrote:
July 19, 2012

Rob, thank you for your service and sacrifice. I wish you the best in all your endeavors.