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Army. Spc. Richard Yarosh performs squat exercises at the new gym in the Center for the Intrepid. Yarosh lost his right lower leg and suffered burns over 60 percent of his body in when an IED attack in North Baghdad ignited his Humvee’s fuel cell.
Army. Spc. Richard Yarosh performs squat exercises at the new gym in the Center for the Intrepid. Yarosh lost his right lower leg and suffered burns over 60 percent of his body in when an IED attack in North Baghdad ignited his Humvee’s fuel cell. (Leo Shane III / S&S)

The Center for the Intrepid’s high-tech resources are great, but Army Spc. Richard Yarosh said the most important feature has been the attitude that staff and patients bring to the new facility.

“All these guys motivate me,” the 25-year-old said. “I set a goal for myself to start walking again by December. They had me walking in a little over a week. Now they’ve got me starting to run again.

“They push me to keep going and keep trying, and that’s what I needed.”

Yarosh — dubbed “Little Ricky” by staffers urging him to lose a few extra pounds — has been meeting with trainers at the new center since last summer as part of his rehabilitation.

He spends about 90 minutes a day in the gym, hitting the exercise bike and weight machines, before heading back over to Brooke Army Medical Center’s main building for another hour of therapy for his wounds.

Yarosh was on patrol in northern Baghdad on Sept. 1, 2006, when his Bradley fighting vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. The explosion ruptured the vehicle’s fuel cell and launched him from the gunner’s seat.

“I was immediately engulfed in flames,” he said. “I couldn’t see what was happening because my face was on fire. I remember rolling on the ground to try and put it out, and instead the grass started sizzling.”

Yarosh rolled into a nearby canal, and nearly drowned before his fellow soldiers pulled him from the water. His Kevlar vest crumbled to ash as medics tried to remove it.

Less than 72 hours later, he was in Texas, badly hurt but alive.

He lost half his right leg and suffered debilitating burns to more than 60 percent of his body. He has only limited use of his hands and arms. And though he has had numerous surgeries, he guesses he still faces as many as 30 more.

Still, he’s proud of his progress and upbeat about the future.

Already he has delivered speeches about the importance of perseverance to dozens of local groups, including to the Houston Texans just a few weeks ago. He and some friends at the center have talked about starting an inspirational lectures company to share their stories.

“People outside here look at me and say, ‘Man, he’s got it bad,’ but the guys in here look and say, ‘He’s doing pretty good,’ ” he said. “I can walk, and I get around. So they know they can, too.

“All these guys motivate me, and I try to do the same for them.”

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