J.R. Salzman is a world champion log roller and an Iraq War Veteran. ESPN has called him “among the preeminent outdoors athletes” of the last decade.
Salzman was a competitor in log rolling and boom running, a sprint on floating logs, in all six seasons of ESPN’s Great Outdoor Games, winning 14 medals (more than any other player). In 2005 he was awarded an ESPY Award for Best Outdoor Sports Athlete. His sister Tina Salzman is the top women’s logroller having won 10 world titles, more than any other woman.
Between 1998 and 2015, he won 10 world titles in men’s professional log rolling at the Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward, WI. He is tied for having the most world titles ever won in the sport. Salzman used his log rolling skills as a stuntman for Eugen Levy in the film Cheaper by the Dozen 2.
Emotionally affected by the September 11, 2001 attacks, Salzman chose to join the Minnesota National Guard, enlisting shortly after the two-year anniversary. He was able to compete in the Great Outdoors Games twice more before his unit was activated as part of the 34th Infantry Division in the fall of 2005. In the spring of 2006, he was deployed to Iraq.
In Iraq, Salzman was primarily assigned to patrols and convoy escort teams (CETs). On December 19, 2006, while scouting for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the lead Humvee of a fuel convoy traveling through Baghdad, his vehicle was struck by an Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP). His right arm was severed below the elbow and his left hand was pulverized by the blast. He also suffered a traumatic brain injury. As he is allergic to morphine, he was transported to a field hospital before any anesthetic was given. The first thing he said to the medic, indicating that his legs were uninjured, was “Its all good, I still have my legs, so I can still log roll.”
He recovered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. staying in a nearby Fisher House, learning to use a prosthetic arm and recover physically and mentally. He spent significant time with Project Healing Waters relearning how to fly fish and tie flies. His brain injury causes him short-term memory loss and difficulty concentrating, and he is considered 100 percent disabled by the VA.
Nevertheless, after being discharged from the hospital in 2007, he returned to log rolling competition professionally in 2008. Salzman regained the log rolling world titles in 2009 & 2010. 2010 proved especially difficult as Salzman competed with the advanced effects of Lyme Disease. He won his tenth world title in 2015, tying a Canadian roller for having the most titles in the 100+ year history of the sport.
He has been blogging and writing for over 10 years, and has worked as freelance journalist focusing on military, law enforcement, right leaning politics, firearms, and forestry topics. He is currently writing a book about his life experiences called “Lumberjack in a Desert.”
He currently runs a small business called Salzman Custom Sawing in NW Wisconsin that rescues fallen urban trees and turns them into lumber, slabs, furniture, and other products.