SSgt Danielle Pothoof served in the US Marine Corps as a Staff Sergeant and was stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC, Camp Pendleton in California, and Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. She comes from a family with many military members, and as she grew up, serving in the military became something she knew she wanted to do with her life.
While serving in Afghanistan in 2011, Dani was on a week-long convoy with the mission of clearing and picking up trucks that had been hit by improvised explosive devices (IED’s). On their way back from the mission, her unit drove through an area that turned out to be a dangerous minefield, sprinkled with IEDs.
The truck Dani was riding in hit one of these IEDs, and she remembers feeling like she was thrown up into the top of the truck. When the IED blew up underneath her and the truck blew apart, a screw was driven into her left leg by the force of the blast.
She credits her fellow soldiers with aiding her in those critical moments after the explosion. They pulled her out of the truck and quickly administered morphine and trauma care.
Dani returned home and for the next five or six years endured severe leg pain while still serving in the military. The pain she endured from her leg injury became constant and began to interfere with her daily activities and family life. She sought out further treatment options, and ultimately her doctors gave her the option of amputation.
Amputation of her injured left leg really was the beginning of a new life for Dani. Initially after surgery, her leg hurt but in a different way than it had for the last five years, a way that she could tolerate. She faced a year and a half of rehab, every day, twice a day. After retiring from the Marine Corps, she struggled to find purpose for her life.
She found that purpose in refocusing on athletics. Before she left the Corps, she had participated in the Warrior Games — post-amputation, this became one of her primary motivators. She now holds two Paralympic records and dozens of Warrior Games medals line the walls of her home. Her mother’s encouragement, as well as starting a business and being accepted to the Police Academy, have also helped her find new purpose in civilian life.
Dani was introduced to the Joshua Chamberlain Society and was moved by their interest in helping veterans “with the things that you don’t think anyone can ever help you with.” Specifically, JCS has helped to fund and facilitate the construction of a shower and tub that are more accessible, safe, and easy for Danielle to use.
We at JCS are thrilled to have been able to make Dani life a little easier, and are excited that she is our newest St. Louis Hero!