His recollection is clear, as if it happened just a while ago: mission in Iraq, February 29, 2004. It was extremely hot. A lot of pilgrims were heading for Karbala to celebrate Yom Ashura. “The Police were scanning the pilgrims for weapon or explosives possession, and we were to cover them,” Janusz recalls. He saw the bus coming, but never suspected it would not stop for control. At full speed, the vehicle just rammed into the control post. “The bus drove into the concrete dams, and pushed them aside like toy blocks. I got stuck. I heard the noise, and knew in an instant these were my bones crushing. All this took only seconds. I saw flashbacks: my fellow soldiers, my wife, my daughter…,” Janusz remembers it well.
He woke up three weeks later in hospital in Germany. His pelvis was crushed, he had two open leg fractures, broken shoulder blades, torn nerves. He went through 40 operations in specialist medical clinique in Ramstein, and in different Polish hospitals. Every time he was told another of his colleagues had died, he felt guilty he had survived. “I learnt again not only how to walk, but also how to live. I was at first taking single steps with the walking frame, but soldiers can be stubborn. I would clench my teeth, and practice again and again. A year after, supported by crutches, I went down a few steps,” he recalls.
Janusz says that he would not manage without the support of his family and without the goal. He found his goal when visiting in hospital soldiers injured in the next rotation in Iraq. “This was a breakthrough. I couldn’t give up, I wanted to be an example for them. I told them my story: 100% health impairment means that I shouldn’t be here now theoretically. I would see their faith grow that they still could live a normal life. We would support one another,” he remembers.
His activity in the Association of Soldiers Wounded and Injured in the Missions Abroad was part of his treatment. Ten years ago, he was one of the founders of this organization, today – he is a vice-president. His share is to stay in contact with the families of killed soldiers. He also visits veterans in hospitals, and helps them to come back to normal life. He also works for the Veteran Center for Missions Abroad.
Janusz in 2007 retired from service, and he was granted disability pension. However, he still dreamt about wearing a uniform again. In 2017, he managed to return to active service. “I had to prove to the commission that I was still able to be a soldier,” he says. He hopes that similar determination will help him in the competition in Sydney. He knows that sport makes rehabilitation work better, so he is a certified scuba diver, and participates in mountain expeditions or canoeing rallies.
“Being part of the Ivictus Team Poland is a great challenge for me. Due to my wounds, there are competitions I’m not able to compete in. Still, I know that sporting rivalry helps me to regain my health,” he says.
Health impairment: 100%
Missions: PMC Iraq 2nd rotation
Discipline: swimming, car driving
Sergeant Janusz Raczy
autor zdjęć: Michał Niwicz