Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Six Million Dollar Wound 

Recruitment numbers must be even worse than reports have indicated:
A cavalry officer, [Capt. David] Rozelle lost his right foot in 2003 in Iraq when a mine planted in a dirt road exploded under his Humvee. After a gruelling recovery, he is the first amputee to return to combat duty in Iraq.

He is proud to be pioneering a route back to active service for seriously wounded soldiers. “I didn’t want the terrorists to decide for me whether I stayed in the army or not,” he said . . . .

With the help of a C-Leg, a prosthetic limb with electronic sensors that gives him a normal gait, Rozelle, 33, can outrun most men under his command. “There are a few young bucks who can beat me,” he admitted ruefully, “but not many” . . . .

On a visit to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington in 2003, President George W Bush announced: “When we’re talking about forced discharge, we’re talking about another age. Today, if wounded service members want to remain in uniform and can do the job, the military tries to help them.”

Staff Sergeant Josh Olson, 25, lost his leg right up to the hip bone when his convoy was attacked with a rocket-propelled grenade in northern Iraq. When Bush presented him with a Purple Heart in hospital in December 2003, Olson was certain that he was on the fast track to a discharge.

A fortnight ago he heard that he had been declared fit for combat. “It’s made me feel great,” he said. “Everything I’ve worked for is paying off.” A talented sharpshooter, he will join the army marksmanship team and train national guardsmen. Olson can walk without a cane or crutches, but has yet to be fitted with a running leg.
Of course it's great that injured soldiers have the opportunity to return to active duty, if that's what they want. Our only question: if the amputee vet just wants to take his discharge and go home, as is his right, will the Army still kit him out with a state-of-the-art bionic prosthesis? Or does the new foot come with strings attached?

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