A former U.S. Army soldier injured in Afghanistan has found a way he can give back to the younger generation.
Rahul Harpalani of Carbondale is a Purple Heart recipient who served two tours overseas. He said he was injured on the last day of his first deployment by an improvised explosive device.
His right foot was amputated as a result of the explosion. He was a 1st Lt. from 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
He has been chosen to serve as a counselor at the 2015 Amputee Coalition Paddy Rossbach Young Camp. He will be one of 25 counselors to participate at the six-day summer youth camp for children ages 10 to 17 with limb loss, or limb difference.
The camp starts Friday at Camp Joy Outdoor Education Center in Clarksville, Ohio.
Harpalani, who graduated from Carbondale Community High School in 2004, was taken from Kunar, Afghanistan, to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., after his injury in 2010.
He fought and rehabbed for 15 months in the nation’s capital, knowing the whole time that he wanted to get back to active duty in the military.
“I was told it was going to be painful, but if I really wanted to do it, my doctor told me he could get me there,” Harpalani said. “He beat me up pretty good, but he got me back into shape.”
Harpalani was fitted with prosthetic limb from the knee down.
After his recovery was over, he went back to active duty and was promoted to captain with the Italy 173rd Airborne Brigade in 2012 and 2013.
Director of Communications at the camp Abra Hogarth said all of the counselors at the camp are amputees, because they connect with the campers better.
“They understand the challenges these campers face because they face the same ones themselves,” she said.
As for Harpalani, she said he is very inspiring and has a great attitude, plus he wanted to help people.
“We are thrilled that he was willing to be a part of the camp, and we are thrilled to have him,” Hogarth said.
She said it is traditional summer camp with activities such as fishing, swimming, arts and crafts, zip lining and several more camping fixtures.
Harpalani, who turns 29 on Saturday, said this is a great opportunity for him to give back.
“Honestly, it is as much for me as it is for the kids,” he said. “I will learn just as much, if not more from the kids.”
Harpalani left the military within the past year and has been working with the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs at the corporate office in Washington.
He has also been working with a organization called Service to School. Its focus is to help veterans obtain undergraduate and graduate education.