SEATTLE -- In a profession of heroes, Joe "Kap" Kapacziewski stands out. The soldier underwent 42 surgeries on his leg after a grenade explosion badly wounded Kapacziewski in Iraq in 2005. Still, the doctors couldn't fix his leg and were forced to amputate. That sacrifice made Kapacziewski a hero. It's what he did next that will make him a legend.
With a prosthetic limb where his right leg used to be, Kapacziewski returned to active combat with the Army Airborne Rangers, the first ever to do so after an amputation.
Kapacziewski went on to serve five additional combat deployments, and in 2010, he saved a fellow soldier's life by dragging the wounded warrior to safety despite heavy enemy gunfire. Now Kapacziewski mentors other veterans with Challenged Athletes Foundation's Operation Rebound.
For that extraordinary bravery and service, Kapacziewski was recognized on Wednesday when Major League Baseball and People Magazine announced him as the Red Sox's representative among the 30 winners of their "Tribute for Heroes" campaign. This nationwide initiative aims to honor service members while supporting Welcome Back Veterans, which addresses the needs of veterans returning from combat.
"It's unfortunate you have to whittle it down to 30," said outfielder Jonny Gomes, who was on the committee that selected the final 30 winners. "They're all heroes, but just to get the word out and recognition for these types of people is great. … It's really the service of all the major branches that is getting recognized."
Each winner will represent an MLB club in New York as part of the All-Star Week festivities, and will be honored in a pregame ceremony before the All-Star Game on Tuesday. During their time in New York, the veterans will attend a VIP reception on the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, a private tour of the 9/11 memorial, and other activities.
Honorees will also be recognized during the pregame ceremony prior to the 2013 All-Star Game on Tuesday on FOX beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
The "Tribute For Heroes" campaign supports Welcome Back Veterans (welcomebackveterans.org, powered by MLB.com), an initiative of Major League Baseball and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, which addresses the needs of veterans after they return from service. Major League Baseball has committed more than $23 million for grants to hospitals and clinics that provide post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) treatment to veterans and their families.
Jacob Thorpe is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.