Joel Booth said, “I’m not afraid of it just because something bad happened. For people who haven’t been in combat, it’s hard to understand.”
Two years ago, while serving as a Naval Combat Medic for a Marine battalion on tour in Sangin, Afghanistan, 24-year-old Joel Booth stepped on a land mine and as a result had to have his right leg amputated below the knee. Booth was also diagnosed with PTSD stemming from the explosion and subsequent loss of his leg. However, as the Daily Mail reports, Booth has found a way to take his personal tragedy and use it to help prepare troops, specifically Marine and Navy medics, for duty in a war zone.
Booth has been working with Strategic Operations, a company that uses “movie-making special effects and actors” to create “hyper-realistic” scenarios for training military personnel, and is “the first amputee actor to have lost a limb in an actual war zone.” The company usually works with amputee actors who have lost limbs in accidents or for medical reasons. In fact, the founders of Strategic Operations have made a “concerted effort” not to use veterans who lost limbs due to war. The executive vice president, Kit Lavell said, “Why would you ask somebody who has gone through this experience to relive it?”
Booth feels very differently about the experience though. He convinced Lavell to to let him audition after seeing one of Strategic Operations training exercises about a year after he lost his leg, and Lavell said, “He was so well-prepared as a corpsman. We felt: He’s the perfect one to do this.” Booth also explained that along with helping troops prepare for what they may face while on duty, participating in the training exercises has aided him in dealing with the “psychological scars left by his own real-life ordeal. In fact, Booth has been helped so much himself that he is no longer taking any medication for his PTSD. He said,
When we’re at the point where the explosions and the gunfire is going off, I’m in a whole different mindset. I’m yelling and screaming and waiting for the corpsmen to come help me. So I’m not really worried about that (PTSD) anymore. It’s more so about the guys coming to get me and really helping them.
Nancy Commisso, a therapist with Easter Seals, says that she’s not surprised to learn that Booth has “found solace” in the roles he is playing for the training exercises. She said, “For many of these guys it doesn’t get better than that – to be able to know you are making a difference in the lives of people who are still in combat … None of these guys want to be the patient – especially corpsmen who tend to be the ultimate persona of strength and someone who wants to help.”
Having Booth on board has, according to Lavell, “enhanced the training” as well. He said, “[Booth] bases his role-playing on his real-life experience,” and this not only gives him an insight that only a combat vet can offer, but also provides the trainees with the opportunity to get tips and learn from someone who has actually been there, and almost didn’t make it home to tell about it. Booth has been such an asset to the company that earlier this year another vet, Redmond Ramos, who is also an amputee corpsman, and friend of Booth’s, was accepted into the group.