RIP Joseph Kapacziewski: US soldier and ‘absolute legend’ dies age 40

Bruno Cooke January 24, 2023
RIP Joseph Kapacziewski: US soldier and ‘absolute legend’ dies age 40
Photo by Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

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American Trigger Pullers and teammate Israel Del Toro Jr have announced the death of Sergeant First Class and “absolute legend” Joseph Kapacziewski, aka Joe Kap, at the age of 40.

Kapacziewski authored an “explosive” memoir in the early 2010s; he was the only Army Ranger serving in direct combat operations at the time with with a prosthetic limb.

“It is with great sadness that we share the passing of an absolute legend,” American Trigger Pullers posted on Facebook on Monday, January 23, 2023.

“He was truly an inspiration to me,” wrote his former teammate Israel Del Toro Jr. “But also to so many.”

A Specialized anti-IED U.S. truck goes on patrol.

Tributes flood social media following announcement of Joseph Kapacziewski’s death

Following death announcements from American Trigger Pullers, a clothing brand, and someone who says they were Joseph Kapacziewski’s “WG teammate” and “brother in arms,” tributes have been coming in thick and fast.

“It is with a heavy heart that I’ve got to share the passing of my WG teammate, brother in arms and friend,” Israel “DT” Del Toro Jr wrote on Facebook Monday.

“The world is just a little bit darker without you Joe.”

American Trigger Pullers posted that it is with “great sadness” that they are sharing the news. “SFC Joseph Kapacziewski, you were truly an inspiration to so very many men and you will be missed heavily. … Until Valhalla.”

What have others said about the news of Joseph ‘Joe Kap’ Kapacziewski’s death?

Commenting on the aforementioned announcements, those who knew, or knew of, Joe Kap have been paying tribute to the late author and soldier.

“[This] hit me like an anvil, brother,” writes one. Kapacziewski was an “absolute beast of a man” and a “light that helped many of us through our own dark times.”

“There aren’t words to properly express what a tremendous loss this for the world,” writes another. They send their love to Del Toro Jr, the Kapacziewski family, and “everyone who loves and admires our hero, Joe Kap.”

Born November 30, 1982, Joseph “Joe Kap” Kapacziewski was 40 years of age, at time of death. 

Where is he from?

Kapacziewski grew up on a small farm in Durham, Connecticut. There were three siblings, in all: older sister Erin, Joe, and younger brother Randy.

After their parents divorced, the three kids and Bill Kapacziewski moved to Fredricksburgh, Texas. When Joe was age 12, his father died in a car accident. He and his siblings then moved back  to Connecticut to live with their grandparents.

He graduated high school in the summer of 2001 and enlisted in the US Army, starting out as a US Army Ranger. During his stint with the Rangers, he deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq three times each. For his services, he received three Purple Hearts, two Army Commendation Medals with “V” for valor, and a Bronze Star Medal, according to Hunting With Heroes Wyoming

It was during his fifth combat tour, in Northern Iraq, that Joe suffered a severe injury as a result of a grenade blast. 

Photo by Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

What happened to Joe Kapacziewski’s right leg? Story behind the injury, amputation and prosthesis 

On October 3, 2005, as Joe’s tour in Northern Iraq was coming to an end, some people attacked his convoy. A grenade fell through the gunner’s hatch of his vehicle. 

When it exploded, it shattered his right leg below the knee. It also severed his median nerve and brachial artery in his right arm and gave him deep tissue wounds in his hip.

He underwent 42 surgeries to his right leg, at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington DC. However, he ultimately opted for amputation. That was in April 2007. 

Since then, he has worn a prosthetic leg and made a remarkable recovery. He has completed three triathlons and an urbanathon; in 2013, he published his memoir, Back In The Fight. No cause of death for Joseph Kapacziewski has yet been made publicly available.

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Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.