Medal of Courage recipient Richard Yarosh

By National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum | June 04, 2010, 9:51 a.m. (ET)
Richard Yarosh, Windsor, N.Y.
Medal of Courage

The values of wrestling were instilled early in Richard Yarosh. His father Tom and his Uncle Bill were both high school wrestlers who shared their knowledge as coaches with Richard and his two younger brothers.

So, when adversity hit, Richard knew nothing else but to fight through it.

Yarosh was wrestling team captain for Windsor High School in Binghamton, N.Y., compiling a 69-48 record in four years at 189 pounds. He graduated in 2000 and by December of 2005, was serving his country in Iraq, driving a Bradley assault vehicle. It was in September of 2006 that his life changed forever.

Army PFC Yarosh was manning the turret of the Bradley, patrolling a road that he and his fellow soldiers had been down many times before, when the vehicle hit an "IED" or improvised explosive device.

The fuel tank blew, engulfing the Bradley, and Yarosh in flames. He jumped blindly from the turret, breaking his leg and severing an artery in the process. Still in flames, he rolled around in the dirt next to the vehicle but with so much burning fuel, he couldn't put the fire out.

Almost content to give up, he somehow found the will to take one more roll to his right and fell into a canal, extinguishing the flames. His fellow soldiers pulled him from the water.

Burned over 60 percent of his body, he spent two years at Brooke Army Medical Center, an army burn unit. As a result of the severed artery, part of his leg was amputated. He also lost his ears, his fingers and the tip of his nose, but not his fighting spirit.

Yarosh was promoted to sergeant, awarded the Purple Heart, the U.S. Army Achievement Medal for meritorious and selfless service during military action and the U.S. Army Commendation Medal. He was inducted into the Impact Players Hall of Fame, an organization that raises funds for severely injured soldiers. His portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian in Washington.