Sgt. Joshua Echtinaw was a good runner, maybe one of the fastest in his unit. He used to run five miles in 32 minutes. That was before he was hit by shrapnel in Afghanistan, before he hit his head on a wall after an explosion near his bunker.
Echtinaw is a member of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. He was deployed with the brigade to Afghanistan last year, and has now joined several other soldiers in physical therapy to recover from injuries they sustained during their deployment.
For Echtinaw, therapy includes weekly appointments to fix his knees and ankles. He also has a traumatic brain injury, which means he gets frequent migraines. Doctors say they suspect Echtinaw still has shrapnel in his calves.
Physical therapy sessions last about 15 to 20 minutes and Ectinaw always meets with the same physical therapy technician, Sgt. Anthony Brysch. The men say they talk about God while medicine is pushed into Echtinaw’s knees.
Echtinaw says that when the two men first met, during a physical therapy appointment, Brysch invited him to his baptism.
“I was like, 'Yeah, OK, I’ll be there,’" Echtinaw said. "I don’t know what if it was a divine calling or a divine push to go."
Ever since that moment, Echtinaw says he’s been connected to Brysch.
“This is more than physical therapy for me,” Echtinaw said. “For me, this is spiritual therapy.”
Brysch also helps Echtinaw with his brain-injury therapy. It can be difficult to watch as Echtinaw tries to regain his equilibrium: he stares at a white piece of paper on the wall and bobs his head up and down, while maintaining eye level with the paper. It makes him extremely nauseous, but Echtinaw continues to push even when he’s told he could stop and take a break.
“I think he’s doing pretty good considering what he’s been through,” Brysch said.
Editor's note: The spelling of Sgt. Joshua Echtinaw's last name has been corrected from an inaccurate version initially relayed to Channel 2.
Contact Rebecca Palsha