In honor of Veterans Day, I wanted to share the incredible sports story of Paul Leimkuehler. Paul was a talented athlete and engaged in many sports including speed-skating, skiing and cycling. In 1936, he had earned a spot at the Olympic trials in cycling and in 1938 was named the Ohio State Champion. However, World War II was raging, and he was soon drafted into the U.S. Army where he served as a Lieutenant in the 84th Division. With great bravery Paul fought at the Battle of the Bulge, which is known as “the single biggest and bloodiest battle American soldiers have ever fought — in which nearly 80,000 were killed, maimed or captured in an infernal test of courage and endurance.”
During the battle, Paul was seriously injured in the left leg by shrapnel from a grenade. This injury resulted in his left leg being amputated above the knee. Paul received a Purple Heart for his bravery and returned home to recover at the McGuire General Hospital in Virginia.
However, Paul did not let his injury stop him from making significant contributions to his country. Using his mechanical engineering skills, he convinced the staff at the hospital to let him help improve the designs of the prosthetics and braces being used by patients. Once he was healthy enough to be released, Paul followed his new passion and studied at University of California, New York University and Northwestern University to eventually become certified in the science of prosthetics.
Always an avid athlete, Paul eventually found himself sitting awkwardly in the ski lodge watching his friends on the slopes when an Austrian ski instructor told him about a film, Miracles on Skis, featuring European amputees skiing. Inspired to try it himself, Paul built outriggers with sawed off crutches and shortened children’s skis attached to the base. Soon, Paul was out on the slopes and co-founding adaptive skiing programs such as Three Tracks of Ohio, the oldest adaptive ski program in the United States.
As you can see, Paul Leimkuehler made many contributions to our country through his service in the Army, and then through pioneering adaptive skiing programs in the United States. Paul reminds all of us to always find potential in our situation, to find the grit to pursue those opportunities and to always believe in the possible.