“Joe Average” Dedicating Himself To Wounded Warriors

August 13, 2007

Bob Kunkle demonstrating Ju Jitzu techniques at Walter Reed

He calls himself “Joe Average”, but the things he does to support our Wounded Warriors indicate that he’s anything but “average.” The title, “Joe Average” doesn’t even begin to describe this amazing man and his dedication to the Wounded. His support, dedication and compassion when it comes to serving our Wounded Warriors is nothing short of outstanding. You might be asking yourself, who is this “Joe Average”. I mentioned “Joe Average” in this article that I wrote on June 18th, about one of his students. He’s a personable man and very passionate about what he does. He’s outspoken and says what he thinks, or as he describes himself, “A caustic SOB”. His name is Bob Kunkle, and he’s quite an amazing man.

Donation drive conducted by Bob at Christmas

Bob Kunkle is a Vietnam Veteran who was injured in the war when a his left knee was blown out. Today Bob’s left leg is fused at the knee and his left leg is 4 inches shorter than his right leg. But he doesn’t let his disability stop him. Instead he uses his story, a story of a young GI returning from the jungles of Vietnam with a life altering injury, a story of making bad choices as he struggled to cope with his injury and his story of survival, of overcoming his injuries and becoming a 20 plus year martial arts master, certified in DanZan Ryu Ju Jitsu, which is one of the most difficult arts to master, especially with the type of injury that Bob has. He now uses those skills and his story, as he visits the Wounded Warriors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He’s also become a certified peer volunteer at Walter Reed.

Handicapped utensils and cutting board

Bob travels from his home in the Niagra Falls, NY area to Washington DC at least once a month, sometimes more. He does this on his own, out of his desire to use himself as an example to this new generation of Wounded Warrior, of what they can achieve. He pours his heart into showing these young men and women, that if they put their mind to something, that they too can achieve anything they wish.

Bob generally arrives at Walter Reed, armed with goodies and personal items for the Troops there. In speaking with Bob, I learned that he generally doesn’t have a plan on who he’ll be visiting when he enters the hospital, but instead begins walking down the hallways and stops at whatever room he feels drawn to. Many times, it may be a Soldier who just recently arrived at Walter Reed, still facing numerous surgeries, in tremendous pain and full of doubts about what their future might hold for them.

Bob spoke of walking down the hallway in Walter Reed one day and seeing a young Soldier in front of him who was a double leg amputee. He said that the young man apologized for not remembering his name. Bob was at a loss, as he didn’t think he’d ever met this young man before. But it was soon apparent he had. Bob said the young man remembered that Bob brought gourmet cookies and popcorn to him the day he initially visited him, but he didn’t recall his name, because he was still taking heavy doses of pain killers at the time. Bob knew immediately that he had indeed visited this young man on one of his previous visits, as he always brings special cookies he gets from a shop back home and popcorn from a place back home as well.

One Touch and Hands Free Can Openers

Bob does all of this on his own. No financial backing from anyone… it’s all on his own dime. Basically he spends his entire disability check to fund these trips. As Bob says, he’s recycling tax dollars, to fund his trips to Walter Reed and putting them to use for something that will help our Wounded Warriors. He’s not able to go and do near as much as he’d like, because he’s still got a family to support. Somehow though, as Bob said, when it’s looking like he can’t make a planned trip, something comes along to allow that to happen. Bob just called me yesterday and relayed a story that I’d like to share here.

Bob had went to his Dentist to have some work done. The dentist confirmed what he thought, that he had a cavity, but that there wasn’t enough tooth left to fill, so he needed a crown. Bob’s thinking to himself “I can’t afford this,” as he wouldn’t be able to make his planned visit to Walter Reed if he did. As if the dentist was reading his mind, he told Bob that he was going to go ahead and do the crown. As he told Bob, “this is something I can do. What you’re doing is so important and it’s something that I can’t do.” So Bob had his dental work completed and left the office. As he was leaving, the receptionist asked about his trips to Walter Reed. He told her how they’d went and explained about something new he’d like to start… a mini-vacation/retreat for Wounded Warriors and their spouse. He plans were to bring them to Niagra Falls and give them a weekend of fun and relaxation, away from the stress and worries at Walter Reed. He shared with her he already had a couple picked out for the first trip, a Soldier and his new bride, whom he married while at Walter Reed. They’d not had a honeymoon yet and Bob wanted to provide that for them. He shared that he was hoping to be able to get some assistance from airlines and possibly hotels, to make this happen. The receptionist asked Bob what he thought it would cost to fly the couple to Niagra Falls. Bob told her what he estimated and went on his way, back to work. A short time later, someone told Bob that there was a lady there to see him. When he went up front, there stood the receptionist from the Dental Office, who gave him a handful of bills. When he counted it later, he realized that the dental receptionist, a single mother raising several children had just given him $500 in cash. Bob recounted this story to a local radio host, Kathy Weppner, who’s interviewed Bob several times in the past and supports his mission. Kathy aired a condensed version of the event on the air and soon called Bob back, telling him that a hotel had contacted her wanting to help by providing lodging for the couple, who will arrive in Niagra Falls over Labor Day weekend for their mini-vacation/honeymoon. Hopefully this will be something that Bob will be able to continue to offer our Wounded Warriors.

We’re just touching the tip of the iceberg, on the things this self-proclaimed “Joe Average” does at Walter Reed for our Wounded Warriors. Each time Bob makes that drive to Walter Reed, he does Ju Jitzu demonstrations for the Wounded, showing them ways that they can defend themselves, even given the injuries many of them have suffered. For example one of his students, Joe Beimfohr a double leg amputee demonstrates the techniques that Bob teaches, from a wheelchair. The weeks that Bob makes the trek to Walter Reed, he has one special evening set aside, usually a Friday or Saturday evening, where he takes some of the Wounded Warriors out on the town for dinner. He has arrangements with a local restaurant, who always make room for Bob and his guests. One Friday, there might be five and the next time there might be as many as twenty. Bob just never knows. He generally tries to pick out Troops who are having difficulty adjusting to their injuries… maybe unsure that they’ll be accepted in society again. Bob says that by the time the evening has concluded, a great transformation has taken place. Due to the hospitality of the owners at the restaurant, the Soldiers are put at ease. Each one is treated by the staff, as if they’re a family member… every one is accepted. For many of these young warriors, with an uncertain future to look forward to, an outing such as this, is what’s needed to begin the emotional healing, one step along the way to healing the whole person. Sometimes he’s accompanied by various officials from Walter Reed, always in civilian clothing to put the Wounded Warriors at ease. Many times, some of his students come along, other times his children, if their military duties allow. Bob spends a whole lot of time, just talking to these Wounded Warriors about what the future for them holds and things they can do to ensure they have a bright future ahead of them. He’s honest with them, it won’t be easy, but they can accomplish whatever they set their minds to. Coming from someone who’s “been there” himself, they can hear and SEE for themselves that Bob knows what he’s talking about.

Bob has been in contact with various manufacturers of handicapped items asking for donations or price cuts, so that he can ensure the Wounded Warriors have things that can make their lives easier, many of these corporations have either flat told him “No” or don’t even bother to answer his letter. He’s talking about things like a “No Hands canopener”, a one handed cutting board, or even a one handed fishing pole holder. Items that will not only make the lives of the Wounded Warriors easier, but will also allow them to regain as much independence and self-confidence as possible. He always arrives with heartfelt letters from people wishing the Troops well. As we’re all aware, those letters, from ordinary Americans that they don’t know, mean the world to these men and women. Bob recently received a letter from the Account Manager with Harvest Tradi, a corporation that makes the no-hands can openers, who have agreed to donate can openers free of charge, so that Bob can take them with him on his trips to Walter Reed (they’re one of the very few that have offered to help).

Traditional throwing into new rank. Here Bob throws his son, as he’s promted. His son Jeff is in the US Navy. Later a double amputee patient from Walter Reed took part in the “throwing into rank” ceremony

Bob Kunkle is an amazing man, a man who knows what it’s like to sacrifice for his Country, yet feels that there’s more that he can give. And give he does, as often as he possibly can. Bob is the proud father of 4 children, 3 of whom are serving in our nation’s Armed Forces. As Bob told me, what he does isn’t about him at all, but about what he can do for our Wounded Warriors. He sometimes worries that he won’t be able to financially continue his mission, but some how, some way fate intervenes to ensure that his mission can continue, for yet one more trip to Walter Reed.

My goal in writing this story is simply this: If, by making people aware of Bob Kunkle and the lenghts he goes to, to support our Troops, that it catches the attention of individuals or corporations who would like to help ensure that Bob can continue his work, then not only have I been able to help Bob, but ultimately, I’ve been able to help our Wounded Warriors at Walter Reed. If anyone would like to help with his mission, contact me and I’ll put you in contact with Bob. If you know of a corporation, a civic organization or other group who’d like to do a community service project, please tell them about Bob and what he’s doing and ask them to consider taking part in his projects. Bob didn’t ask me for help raising money or garnering support for what he’s doing. He’ll continue doing it for as long as he’s able, because he feels strongly that it’s something he was meant to do. But I too, feel that his mission is an important one on so many levels, and I feel that it’s something that should continue, if there’s any way possible.

Bob Kunkle, if you’re indeed just a “Joe Average” then I must say, this Country needs a whole lot more “Joe Averages” just like you.


12 Responses to ““Joe Average” Dedicating Himself To Wounded Warriors”

  1. University Update - T-Pain - “Joe Average” Dedicating Himself To Wounded Warriors on August 13th, 2007 1:57 am

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  2. Cathy B on August 13th, 2007 8:22 am

    Does ‘Joe Average’ have an address or site for donations to continue his efforts?
    Thanks for posting this inspirational story.
    Cathy B

  3. Terri on August 13th, 2007 9:00 am

    Cathy, yes he does, however I’m at work right now and don’t have the information with me. I’ll email you with the info when I get home this evening.

  4. CavMom on August 13th, 2007 9:06 am

    “Bob Kunkle is an amazing man, a man who knows what it’s like to sacrifice for his Country, yet feels that there’s more that he can give.”

    This leaves me teary. One man who many would say, has already given more than his share, continues to step up and help in the most amazing ways!

  5. Terri on August 13th, 2007 9:12 am

    I agree CavMom. He’s awesome. We’ve corresponded via email and had several conversations over the phone. He’s pretty amazing.

  6. Haole Wahine on August 13th, 2007 9:25 am

    Thank you Terri, Bob Knukle is another unsung American Warrior. Thank God for all of them.

    Who needs MSM we’ve got ASM!

  7. joe average on August 14th, 2007 6:08 am

    Terri,Thank you.I want your readers to know it is a priviledge and honor to be able to help in some small way.Each trip I pinch myself and am so thankful our country produces such amazing people,The American Soldier.

  8. Terri on August 14th, 2007 6:13 am

    Bob it was my pleasure to feature a story about you and the amazing work that you do for our Wounded. Thank You!

  9. AJ Sporleder on August 14th, 2007 3:31 pm

    Thankyou for this article Bob is doing Super things and I am proud to help him in any way. Last January our Pastor was Reactiveated for Chaplin duty for the NYARNG We had started a Veteran’s Appreciation Dinner at our Church St. Peter Lutheran Church and School Near Niagara Falls NY. I asked if Bob would like to speak at our dinner as our Guest Speaker and he agreed. That night after the dinner I asked all who were there if they would like to help Bob in his mission that there would be a collection plate on the table as you left for the evening. We collected $810.00 from our veteran guest. Wow How Cool IS That!

  10. Terri on August 14th, 2007 3:46 pm

    Al it was my pleasure to feature a story about Bob and the amazing work he is doing for our Wounded Warriors. That’s really great that your church members were so willing to help ensure that Bob could continue his mission (I truly believe it was a mission that he was meant to do). Thank You so much for stopping by and sharing that story with us.

  11. James Erwin Kunkle on August 18th, 2007 3:16 pm

    I have studied the KUNKLE surname of ours for the past 35+ years, and have over 60,000 of them on my computer. I would love to know more about the KUNKLE ancestors of Bob Kunkle. I write Genealogy KUNKLE - KUNKEL books, and donated them free to various Genealogy Libraries in the USA and Germany. I’d love to learn more of Bob KUNKLE and his ancestors so I could tie his line with his great stories for other to read. - By: James E. Kunkle; Edgewater, CO - (Aug. 2007)

    Reply - (Aug. 2007)’); return false;”>Quote
  12. Terri on August 18th, 2007 3:32 pm

    Mr Kunkle I’ll pass your information on to Bob and have him contact you. Thanks for stopping by.

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