When Scott Tarkenton heard the story of 1st Lt. Nathan Rimpf, an Army Ranger who lost both of his lower legs in an explosion in Afghanistan last year, he knew he wanted to do more than offer his silent gratitude.
“It immediately struck a chord,” said Tarkenton, who served as an Army Ranger from 1973 to 1979 and whose brother was killed in 1967 in Vietnam.
Tarkenton, a member of the North Raleigh Rotary Club, decided to invite Rimpf to a meeting where he could share his story. In that simple gesture, Tarkenton hoped to give members of the club a chance to meet Rimpf, to hear his story just the way he wanted to tell it, and to express their appreciation for his service face-to-face, if only for an hour.
“It’s not often that we have a chance to thank those who have sacrificed so much for all of us,” Tarkenton said.
On Wednesday, Rimpf stood behind a podium in the Sertoma Arts Center and spoke to the club. He told them about the day last July he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Anbar Province and suffered extensive injuries in the blast.
He told them about his recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, joking about how his prosthetic limbs have made him three inches taller and still marveling that he finished the Army Ten-Miler race in Washington just weeks ago.
Rimpf, who is quick to look on the bright side, also told them that the way he has been embraced since his return from the war has made all the difference.
“The support of my community is what has kept me positive,” he said.
Rimpf, who will take a medical retirement from the Army in the coming months, has plans to go to business school with the goal of becoming a health care consultant.
He will live in Raleigh, in his new home built in Renaissance Park by Operation: Coming Home, a local volunteer project that builds and donates houses to disabled combat veterans who served in the Middle East. Rimpf received the keys to his new home in a ceremony Thursday.
Rimpf, a North Raleigh native, graduated from Leesville Road High School before graduating through the ROTC program at East Carolina University in 2010.
As part of its support for Rimpf, the Rotary Club’s 58 members raised $1,600 for Operation: Coming Home, a collaboration between the Triangle Veterans Association (TVA) and the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County.
The group provides everything to the veteran for free, from the land to the countertops. Tim Minton, the executive director of the Home Builders Association, said the group already has plans to build a seventh and eighth house, a pace he never anticipated when the group formed in 2008.
As he surveyed the crowd of hundreds who gathered at the key ceremony Thursday, Rimpf reiterated how important the support he has received has been since his injury.
“Look at this out here,” he said. “Who wouldn’t give a pair of ugly feet to defend these people? It’s been a very awesome 487 days, to be honest.”
Staff writer Kyle Jahner contributed to this report.