“Thank you for your service.”
It’s a phrase that’s often used to express appreciation to a service member—especially one who sustained injuries in the line of duty.
And it’s woefully inadequate to express the smallest fraction of gratitude the nation should feel toward U.S. Army Capt. Edward Klein.
“Flip” enlisted in the Army on April 17, 2000. He met his wife, Jessica, in 2002 while at West Point; the couple was married in June 2006, the week after he graduated.
“Flip loves winter sports,” Jessica says. “He’s an expert skier and snowboarder. Flip and I hit the mountain every chance we got—I would ski and he’d snowboard. He’s much better than I am, but it was fun. He loved being at the gym, too, doing CrossFit. He’s definitely what you’d call an elite athlete.”
That athleticism served him well over his years of service, which included a deployment to Kuwait before he was accepted to West Point and a 15-month deployment to Iraq in 2007 and 2008.
After returning home from Iraq, Flip took the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course at Ft. Benning in Georgia, after which he became an instructor at the Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course — “molding the minds of young infantry lieutenants,” Jessica says with a smile.
As the Ft. Benning website explains, the IBOLC “trains, educates, and inspires agile, adaptive and ready leaders, committed to the Army Profession, that are ready to lead platoons in combat.”
On October 22, 2012, Flip was leading his Company in combat. He was seven months into a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan when he stepped on an improvised explosive device.
“I flew up in the air and hit the ground pretty hard on the back of my head,” Flip says, remembering the moment when the IED exploded. “I knew I was injured, but I didn’t think it was that bad, so I kind of took control. But I was told, ‘you need to focus on your own survival.’ I screamed for anesthesia, then I passed out.”
Flip’s femoral artery was clamped so he wouldn’t bleed to death. He was carried about 500 meters from the explosion site, through a village and to the aircraft that brought him to a hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan about 40 minutes later. While traveling from Kandahar to Landstuhl, Germany, Flip’s condition worsened and his plane landed at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, where he remained for several days before finally arriving in Landstuhl. Flights from Germany to the East Coast of the United States were affected because of Hurricane Sandy, so he had to remain in Landstuhl for several extra days before he could be transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
“I was unconscious from the moment I got to Kandahar,” Flip says, “and I was not fully conscious until Election Day.” Upon regaining consciousness on November 6, Flip began to understand the extent of his injuries: both legs were amputated above the knee, his pelvis was shattered, his right arm was amputated above the elbow, and three of the five fingers on his left hand were amputated. It wasn’t until January that it became clear he would be able to survive the injuries.
America’s Fund has provided assistance that includes a therapeutic mattress (“I was able to sleep better, with less back pain,” Flip said, “so they were able to reduce my medication”), travel grants for family members and close friends to visit him, and cross-country transportation for Jessica’s car.
“America’s Fund has helped not just financially, which is important, but from the camaraderie they provide,” Flip explained. “My wife and family became very close with the reps and some of the people they work with, even before I regained consciousness.”
America’s Fund is deeply honored to have played a part in Flip’s recovery, and we’re profoundly inspired by his incredible determination that is perhaps best expressed by Jessica, referring to Flip’s love of snowboarding:
“He can’t wait for this winter so he can learn to do it with prosthetics,” said Jessica.
Thanks, Flip—not just for your service, but for the amazing example you set.