Severely Wounded In the Line of Duty,
Radford University Alumnus Embraces Future
RADFORD --Josh Himan ‘06 has never been one to give up.
Losing the use of his legs from a devastating injury suffered while serving in Afghanistan as a U.S. Marine Corps lance corporal, the 26-year old tries not to dwell on what he’s lost, too focused on the new mission set before him, repeating two simple words, “Semper Fi.”
There were several reasons for enlisting in the Marines shortly after college graduation, but Himan best explains his decision in terms befitting his finance major.
“I had a great investment with my four years at Radford, so I decided to make another four-year investment in the Marines,” he said.
Mirroring his collegiate academic proficiency, Himan quickly grasped the pulse-pounding life of an infantryman, working as a machine gunner. His duties included learning how to use multiple weapons, keeping his body in the highest physical and mental condition and learning the most valuable lesson of all: how to save a fellow infantryman’s life.
Little did Himan know at the time, he would soon be the infantryman clinging to life.
Two years into his commitment in September 2009, Himan was serving seven months in the Hellmund province of Afghanistan when disaster struck as his Humvee hit an improvised explosive device (IED). Fortunate to still be alive, the explosion severely injured Himan’s spinal cord, leaving him as a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down.
“My life plan was forever changed,” he said. “It was God’s plan, and I've come to the realization that it takes a man—in a manner of speaking—to accept what happened and wake up with a smile on my face.”
That same never-say-die attitude has been Himan’s hallmark since he was a Radford undergrad, according to his former professor Clarence Rose.
“He seemed to always have a positive, upbeat attitude,” said Rose. “That’s probably what’s really helping him now get through it all.”
Five years after having Himan in his finance classes of real estate and insurance, Rose fondly remembers Josh as a top-notch, dedicated student.
“He rarely, if ever, missed class,” said Rose, who also serves as Radford’s director of MBA and academic outreach programs. “He was a very good student in that he did all his work on time, took his school work seriously and was a good, solid A-student in my classes—he was at or near the top of the class in each one.”
Looking back, Himan said his Radford years were some of his best times, particularly the exhilarating new thrills experienced as a wide-eyed freshman.
“Everyday life just got better,” he said. “I loved the university.”
The comfortable Radford campus is a long way from the desolate reaches of Afghanistan, where even prior to his injury, the elements tested soldiers’ mettle.
“I definitely don't miss being in 130 degree heat and not having cold water for months, sleeping in a combat zone and not able to change uniforms that were totally covered with sweat and sand,” said Himan. “But what I do miss most is the rush of combat—it’s an unexplainable high.”
Rose feels that same pull of camaraderie and sense of duty, sharing Himan’s passion and honor to serve his country, having enlisted in the Navy straight out of high school at age 17.
“When you experience the types of things that take place during service, you get so close to the people you’re working with because you have to rely on one another—it’s so important,” said Rose, who still places a high priority on keeping in touch with his crew mates from the U.S.S. Enterprise. “You do face danger, but you almost kind of laugh it off when you go through these dangerous situations, and the friendships that you develop are just unbelievable.”
Without his Radford professors’ guidance and perseverance, Himan does not believe he would have been nearly as proficient in academics—or in life.
“They pushed me to work hard and to be proud of my major,” he said.
Offering his full support to Josh, Rose encourages him to always strive to maintain friendships with those he served with, and leave the door open for new friendships as well.
“Hang in there,” Rose tells Himan. “The medical technology continues to improve, and sometimes we don’t understand what life deals us, but things do tend to always work out in the end, and just keep trying to make things better … I hope Josh gets stronger and stronger, and does well. I’m sure he will.”
As the dust settles and the days and weeks pass since his injury, Himan braces for a new chapter in life, confident Radford has given him the necessary tools to make a lasting difference.
“Everyone told me, ‘go in and learn a skill that can be used later in life’ as far as a career and I told them straight up, ‘I already have my life skills to be successful because of a well-rounded experience and education at RU,’” said Himan. “RU freed a man to the front line of the USMC and the war on terrorism.”
Ready to engage any challenge life throws his way, Himan is excited to continue his career path in finance, joking that it’s always been his “first love before machine guns.”
“My next step is to get better through therapy, and learn to live life with my disabilities,” he said. “My life goal is to be known for something other than just being a wounded veteran.”