Capt. D.J. Skelton, the Army's Most Seriously Wounded Commander, Returns to Combat


"It is physically incapable for him to do what he is doing," marveled Skelton's friend retired Army officer Lt. Col. John Nagl. "And I have no doubt that he will succeed." Nagl has seen Skelton's determination in action because he is the president of the Center for a New American Security, where Skelton completed a military fellowship while recovering.

While in recovery Skelton also completed a fellowship at Harvard, wrote a caretaker's guidebook for wounded service members, served as military adviser to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England and co-founded Paradox Sports, a nonprofit that helps those with physical disabilities to participate in outdoor sports, such as rock-climbing.

"I've only climbed with him once, and I've seen him do '5.12s'," said Paradox Sports' executive director Malcolm Daly. In rock climbing jargon, "5.12' refers to the difficultly of a climb, with 1 being the lowest, and 5.15b being the most difficult. "It's really hard, in lay person world standards."

For more pictures of D.J. Skelton, click HERE.

"Certain things are tough for him to do. The rifle is tough. He's good with a pistol. In some cases, it's good to have a company commander behind a rifle, but he makes up for it in other ways," Nagl said.

Before his tour in Iraq, Skelton had graduated from the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., where he learned Chinese Mandarin. Skelton also graduated from West Point, where legend has it he illegally jumped off a 900-foot high bridge, personally body-pierced the entire women's soccer team and racked up 465 hours of "punishment tours" (each consisting of an hour of walking back and forth with a rifle).

"The body is resilient. The body is amazing," Skelton told ABC News. "I can't control what happens to my body or how my body heals. Mentally? That's a different story. I can either dwell on what happened and be miserable and pissy and complain," he said. "Or I can look at what I do have left ... and figure out how to make the most of my new life .... how to make what I have work while always looking for creative ways to make up the difference."

At first, Skelton said, he lay in bed feeling miserable and sorry for himself, until another wounded soldier, a double amputee, inspired him.

"I saw a fellow wounded warrior who had lost both of his legs. He was an enlisted soldier and was going to therapy every day and always wore a smile and a great attitude," Skelton said.

"One day my mom asked him why he was so happy, when he looked to be more injured than her own son who was being quite pathetic in [his] recovery. He didn't even hesitate, 'Well, look at it this way... at least I have my two eyes ... I don't what I would do if I ever damaged this handsome face.' Life is all relative," Skelton said.

Wounded Warriors in Combat: A New Reality for the Military?

"Capt. Skelton is providing a great example of courage, strength and commitment," said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army and a four-star general who commanded Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

"Although his body was wounded, his warrior spirit was not. As a company commander, he will demonstrate to his soldiers, noncommissioned officers and other officers that even in the face of great adversity, you can persevere and continue to serve and pursue your dreams."

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