Kriesel brings unique experience to disability, veterans’ issues: First-termer Republican is from Cottage Grove

State Rep. John Kriesel (R-Cottage Grove) is proud to be working with the Amputee Coalition on a bill that would ensure fairness in medical coverage for those who have lost limbs. That’s because he knows first-hand what limb loss is like. 

In 2006, Staff Sergeant Kriesel was near Fallujah leading a group of soldier on a mission to find improvised-explosion devices or IEDs. His Humvee struck one of the devices. Kreisler was badly injured; two of his fellow soldiers and close friends were killed. He has a memory of seeing his badly mangled legs after the explosion. After the bomb blast and catastrophic injuries, Kriesel was kept in a medically induced coma.

On a metal bracelet that never leaves his wrist, he wears their names and the name of a third friend killed in Iraq.

The book Still Standing, written by Kriesel and Jim Kosmo and published by Beaver’s Pond Press, describes what Kriesel went through next. He died three times on the operating table. He was kept in a medically induced coma. He was flown to Germany and then to the United States for treatment and rehabilitation.

The book describes the many miracles that helped Kriesel through four hospitals, 35 surgeries and many months of rehabilitation. Still Standing describes Kriesel’s remarkable story. The book is told in his own words. He was told to expect two years of rehabilitation; he was done in eight months. He was told he would be using a wheelchair for the rest of his life; now he uses a cane, crutches and occasionally a wheelchair. He met then-Sen. Norm Coleman at Walter Reed Medical Center and became an intern in his office. That got him more involved in public politics and he was recruited by the Minnesota Republican Party to run for a House seat.

He was elected to the Minnesota House last fall, campaigning hard in what has traditionally been a DFL-leaning district. He did some of his door-knocking and campaigning on a Segway.

Kriesel emphasizes that he considers himself more fortunate than others. He came back from combat and can still spend time with family and friends. At the rally for House File 877, he spoke of how people with artificial limbs need to be able to live their lives fully, every day. Providing equal coverage for persons who need artificial limbs is a way of doing that.

“We have some insurance companies that are doing the right thing,” he said. “The state also seems to take care of people and there’s a health cost. Yet people pay insurance premiums and the some insurance companies aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do. We shouldn’t be punishing people for having private insurance.”

He is well-known at the capitol and well-liked for his positive attitude. As for his first session, Kriesel said, “It’s a lot different than anything I have ever done.” But he is enjoying his work. He also said that despite what is often portrayed as a highly partisan atmosphere, elected officials can and do work together.

“We can have a very partisan, passionate debate and then after that, we treat each other with respect,” Kriesel said. “We’re all the same in that we want what is best for the state. We jus don’t always agree on how to get there.”

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