Losing A Limb Doesn’t Mean An End To Military Service
June 4, 2007
Medical technology has made advance in leaps and bounds and that’s most evident in the Wounded Warriors from the battlezones in Iraq and Afghanistan. As recent as the Vietnam War, troops were guaranteed to be medically discharged if their injuries resulted in the loss of an arm or leg. Nowdays, that’s not always the case. Many have remained in the Military, some even returning to the battlefields.
One such soldier, Sgt. Tawan Williamson lost his leg in Iraq when an IED blew up underneath his Humvee. Williamson remembers looking down at his leg after the explosion and knowing that it couldn’t be saved. His left leg is missing below the knee and he’s missing three toes on his right foot. He didn’t lost his military career though. Less than a year after his injury, Williamson is running again and has plans to take a new assignment by the fall as an Army job counselor in Okinawa, Japan. Though faced at times by skepticism from his peers, he doesn’t allow that to stop him.
“But I let my job show for itself,” he said. “At this point, I’m done proving. I just get out there and do it.”
Since the beginning of the war in Iraq, the military is keeping more and more amputees in service. They’re being treated in rehabilitation programs, such as the one at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and promising to help them return to active duty if that’s what they wish to do. Many of them do.
“The mind-set of our Army has changed, to the extent that we realize the importance of all our soldiers and what they can contribute to our Army. Someone who loses a limb is still a very valuable asset,” said Lt. Colonel Kevin Arata, a spokesman for the Army’s Human Resources Command at the Pentagon.
According to Arata the Army has treated nearly 600 Wounded Warriors who have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan missing an arm, leg, hand or foot. Of those 600, 31 have returned to active duty service. Not one soldier who has asked to remain in the military has been discharged. Many of those chosing to remain in the military are given assignments as instructors or other desk jobs, away from combat. However some have returned to combat, though the Army hasn’t kept track of the exact number.
One amputee, who set a shining example by returning to combat is Major David Rozelle. At the time of his injury in 2003, Major Rozelle was a Captain assigned to 3rd ACR. Refusing to allow his injury to end his career, Rozelle who was injured by a roadside bomb which resulted in the amputation of his right foot, Rozelle fought against all odds to prove himself still capable of performing his duties in the battlefield, despite the loss of his foot. Major Rozelle was the first amputee in recent military history to resume command on the same battlefield. Major Rozelle has since returned from his second tour in Iraq and is currently helping to design the amputee program at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington DC. Major Rozelle knows of at least seven other amputees, who have returned to combat in Iraq. Rozelle felt that he was duty-bound to return to Iraq after his injury and lead his troops.
Following his injury, Major Rozelle wrote a book about his experience, Back in Action: An American Soldier’s Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude. I highly recommend this as a book that everyone should read. Major Rozelle’s story is one that is very inspirational and portrays the intestinal fortitude and perseverance which is so common among the men and women serving in this country’s Armed Forces.
“It sounds ridiculous, but you feel guilty that you’re back home safe,” he said. “Our country is engaged in a war. I felt it was my responsibility as a leader in the Army to continue.”
You can order Major Rozelle’s book at
According to Mark Heniser who before joining the amputee program at Fort Sam Houston, worked as a Navy Therapist, both the wounded soldier and the military benefit when soldier’s with amputations are kept on active duty. The military is able to retain a soldier who is experienced and skilled in his or her job and the soldier is able to continue with their career.
Heniser says that not every soldier missing a limb does as well as Major Rozelle or Sgt. Williamson. Some are dealing with more severe injuries or have more difficulties with the loss of their limb, both physically and emotionally. According to Heniser, in general, those with more service under their belts tend to be more motivated to remain active duty, while those losing a limb early in their careers are more likely to opt for medical discharge.
This story only emphasizes the courage, determination, patriotism and belief in their mission that our troops display each and every day.