ECU graduate Nathan Rimpf has spent weeks receiving therapy at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., after being injured while serving in Afghanistan. He will assist in the coin toss to begin the ECU football game against Navy on Oct. 27. (Contributed photo)
When Army First Lt. Nathan Rimpf assists officials with the opening coin toss at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Oct. 27, his family and friends from Raleigh will be in the stands cheering for him. And cheering his ability to walk onto the field.
Rimpf, who graduated from ECU in 2010, was injured July 8 in Afghanistan just two months after arriving there. Rimpf’s injuries included the loss of one leg below the knee and the other leg lost through the knee, according to his mother, Cindy Rimpf.
Friends and family of Rimpf also have created wristbands that sell for $5, with all proceeds going to the Nathan Rimpf Support Fund. According to a recent article in the Raleigh News & Observer, more than 2,000 wristbands have been sold thus far.
ECU English professor and furniture maker Andy Bates is donating the proceeds from an upcoming sale to support Nathan Rimpf. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
On the Facebook page, people send in photos of themselves wearing rubber bracelets with Rimpf’s name and “Rangers leading the way” on them to answer the question: “Where in the world are Nathan’s wristbands?”
So far, the page has more than 2,000 likes and photos of Rimpf’s wristbands have been posted from around the world – from Afghanistan to Alaska, from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa to Stockholm, Sweden.
Rimpf’s rehabilitation progress has outpaced expectations. Fourteen weeks after his injury in Afghanistan, he hand-biked the Army Ten Mile Run on Oct. 21 in Washington, D.C.
His mother noted that he had participated in the race three times previously as part of ECU’s ROTC teams. Those teams ran to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project. “This year, Nathan, our own wounded warrior, will participate in the race in a ‘new’ way,” Cindy Rimpf wrote in a Facebook post.
Rimpf is slated to return again to Greenville on Nov. 2 for the opening of an exhibit at the Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge featuring the work of accomplished furniture maker, Andy Bates, who is also an ECU English teaching instructor.
An accident in Bates’ workshop at home led to the connection.
“I was sitting there (in the doctor’s office) feeling sorry for myself when suddenly it dawned on me that there are other people who have given so much for our country – they’ve lost their legs or their lives. It was then that I knew I wanted to do something along the lines of the Wounded Warriors project. And I had an idea about what I could do that might help.”
Bates decided that he would donate the proceeds from the sale of his work to a wounded soldier. “So I contacted (ECU Assistant Vice Chancellor for Military Programs) Steve Duncan and asked him what opportunities he knew about where I could help. He said he had just learned about a recent ECU graduate who had lost both legs serving in Afghanistan, Nathan Rimpf.”
“I knew then that because of this connection – Nathan is an alumnus and a wounded warrior – that he was who I wanted to focus on,” said Bates, who holds an undergraduate and a master’s degree from ECU.
Bates and Rimpf have not met yet, but Bates is excited that Rimpf and his family plan to attend the opening reception Nov. 2. That reception runs from 6-9 p.m. and is open to the public.
“The opening reception would also be a great opportunity for the Pirate Nation to show support for one of its wounded warrior alumni,” Bates said.
-- East editor Steve Tuttle contributed to this article.
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