Inspiring Story of Service | PTSD Awareness Month – Josh Sandor
Former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Sandor was born and raised in the town of West Milford in northern New Jersey. After graduating from high school in 2001, Josh joined the Army at age 17. In August, he attended basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, to become a cavalry scout. “I remember my recruiter trying to tell me about all of these great jobs and career paths I could take, and I had to stop him mid-sentence,” Sandor recalls. “I wanted to be a scout. I already knew that was what I wanted to do.”
On September 11, 2001, Josh found himself on the qualifying range for rifle marksmanship when the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center began to unfold. In his words, “Our chaplain came out to our range after a post-wide cease-fire was directed for all range operations. We all felt something was wrong and later, as our chaplain spoke, we knew our time on the range was not just to qualify, but to prepare for war.”
Sandor deployed to Iraq in March 2003 with Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle driver, redeploying in March 2004. In October 2007, he deployed again to Iraq with Fox Troop, 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. It was during this deployment that Josh served as a gunner in his platoon’s lead vehicle in the infamous Diyala Province. Sandor shares with us the story of how he was injured on this deployment. “On Dec. 18 late at night, we were returning to our base after a fairly routine mission in a Kurdish controlled area. We were getting close to home when I remember telling our driver to stay left ahead to avoid going over a massive pothole in the road. As he maneuvered the HMMWV (Humvee) around the hole, it detonated. I don’t remember too much of the initial strike. There is a moment of numbness and peace before the chaos sets in during a blast. It all happens so fast that there is no time to react to anything. When I regained consciousness, my eyes were burning so bad I could not see, and my entire right side hurt badly. I went to move, but was told to stay still for the medic. Our crew all survived three artillery rounds that were packed with explosives and designed to detonate together as we went by. A foot-long piece of shrapnel was coming through the inner back wall of the truck but was stuck about a foot away from my back. Had it made it through, I would have been gone. The up-armored HMMWV saved our lives, no doubt.”
Josh exited the Army in April 2010 and began his transition back to civilian life. The blast took its toll on him both physically and mentally. He knew his life was changing and day-to-day living became increasingly more difficult. Army doctors diagnosed Sandor with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 2009, and in 2012, the Department of Veterans Affairs again diagnosed Josh with PTSD and TBI.
When asked what compels him to share his story and experiences, Josh told us, “Depicting the Invisible has given me a voice and a voice for those who cannot speak or are not ready to talk yet. Being chosen to share my story of service with you at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum is such an amazing moment in my life. I have given myself and my story to Depicting The Invisible. I also volunteer as an outreach officer with Freedom Fighter Outdoors to help Veterans. I keep both close to heart. I was saved because I came out of the shadows where I felt stuck. I want all Veterans to know that if I can find the strength and courage to come forward to get help, so can any Veteran.”
Depicting The Invisible: A Portrait Series of Veterans Suffering from PTSD by mixed-media artist Susan J. Barron, is now on view at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum through Jan. 2, 2022. For information about visiting in-person or experiencing a virtual tour of this exhibition, visit NationalVMM.org
In May of 2019, Josh opened his business, Patriot Mobile Detailing in Milford, P.A. He shares, “I am very proud to have started my own business. It is small but growing steadily every day.” Learn more: https://www.patriotmobiledetailing.com/