Amputee Soldier to Return to Iraq Duty

ByABC News via via logo

Feb. 20, 2005 — -- In June 2003, Army Capt. David Rozelle lost his right foot in a land mine explosion in Iraq.

After intensive physical therapy, watching the birth of his son and even participating in the New York City Marathon, Rozelle is returning to the war zone as commander of an armored cavalry troop. He'll be the first amputee in recent military history to return to the battlefield where he was injured.

Rozelle, 31, tells his inspiring story in a book, "Back in Action," released on Feb. 14. He says it was his soldier's sense of duty that inspired him to return to Iraq.

"It's hard to explain the sense of duty that a U.S. soldier has," Rozelle told "Good Morning America." "But, you know, we're committed to something great over there. And my soldiers are again returning to Iraq with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. And I feel like I need to be there, too."

Rozelle, whose right leg now ends two inches above the ankle, is fitted with a prosthetic foot, which fits in a standard-issue combat boot.

Despite the injury and the grueling physical rehabilitation he endured, Rozelle knows that he doesn't have it as hard as some others soldiers who have lost limbs, sometimes more than one.

At least 4,400 military men and women have been wounded in action since the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The military believes a significant percentage of them will be able to return to duty at some point.

Though Rozelle admits to being nervous about returning, watching the commitment of other soldiers and the bravery of the Iraqi people who voted in the election last month has convinced him he still has work to do there.

"You can read about [war] and watch movies, but nothing prepares you for the uncertainty of what's ahead," said Rozelle. "This time, I guess I'm more mature in the sense I understand what's ahead and I'm better able to prepare myself for it."

In his book, Rozelle has written about coping with a disability -- the fear, the anger, the boredom and the victories, both large and small.

"It's been a roller coaster ride for the last eight months," he said. "The first month was just sort of celebrating being alive, and then there was a transition period where I wasn't sure what I was going to do with my life and what was going to happen next."

It was Rozelle's injury that allowed him to be present for the birth of his son, Forrest, in August.

"Otherwise, I would have met him at nine months of age," he said. "Everything has a silver lining."

It was his son and his wife, Kim, who kept him motivated throughout his recovery, said Rozelle. And in spite of the dangers he'll face again, his wife is supporting his decision to return to Iraq.

When Rozelle returns from duty for the second time, he plans to continue working with other amputee soldiers, inspiring them both mentally and physically to get "back in action" -- whether it is to return to life in the military or a readaptation to civilian life.

"That's part of the reason to go back to Iraq," he said. "It brings things full circle."

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