Amputee Blazing New Trails… Leading By Example, Inspiring Others

June 14, 2007

On June 4th, we featured a story here about amputees in the military and mentioned several of them. One of the amputees I mentioned, Major David Rozelle, has done amazing things since his recovery from his injury, including returning to Iraq to command his Troops on the battlefield. Major Rozelle’s nothing short of amazing and inspirational and I feel that he’s deserving of an even more in depth story about him. He’s faced the demons that come along with losing his leg in such a horrific way, and been successful in ways that many who have no disabilities, have been unable to achieve.

As with most amputees, Major Rozelle (then Captain) faced many challenges, including the possibility of becoming dependent on drugs and alcohol. Instead of succombing to those demons, Major Rozelle fought back, determined to overcome all obstacles in his way, but to also show the Army that not only could he still lead his Troops, but that he could return to Iraq and lead them. He did just that, returning to Iraq almost 20 months after being injured.

“Gave my last command as a cavalry troop commander, which is secure the area and evacuate the casualties,” Rozelle recalled. “I was the casualty. They got me out.”

“They made a decision on that day that I was going to get injured,” he said. “But I wanted to turn it around and say, ‘I can beat this.”

“I went back and I faced the demon,” he said. “I overcame my fears and I went back to war.”

The road back to Iraq was a rocky one. Rozelle faced the possibility of being medically retired, which he was entitled to. He, however didn’t want to be medically retired and his chain of command told him that he would be able to return to active duty with 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, if he was able to prove his physical ability and pass the PT test. With odds against him, Rozelle began training in earnest and despite his amputation and the grave concern of his family and friends, he was ready to show after just 8 months that he was once again combat ready.

“When the Army puts an officer in charge of troops, it wants to make sure that the individual can get it done - lead them into battle and be successful,” said Maj. Rozelle, who is now administrator for the Amputee Care Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

“When I took my Oath of Office, it never mentioned giving up if I was injured. It was my responsibility as a leader to lead from the front and return to duty,” he said.

During his recovery, Rozelle began running and competing to increase his physical strength and endurance and ensure that he truly was “combat ready.” In 2004, he participated in the San Diego Triathlon Challenge, sponsored by Challenged Athletes Foundation. During the competition, he found himself surrouded by athletes, ech of whom were dealing with overwhelming disabilities. He was impressed by the fact that despite the disabilities, there was no complaining and that everyone was supportive of each other, all with the goal in mind of raising money to help others with disabilities.

Rozelle redeployed to Iraq in 2005, and wasn’t able to compete in another Triathlon until late June 2005, just 5 short days after returning home from his second tour in Iraq. Rozelle was also preparing for a new job in the Army, that as the deputy to the manager for amputee care at the new Walter Reed Army Medical Amputee Care Center. Rozelle is in charge of the construction. As with all the challenges he’s faced, Rozelle takes this new one in stride, leading by example and inspiring all who cross his path, wounded soldiers and co-workers alike.

“I’ve been there,” said Major Rozelle, who spends the bulk of his day working to establish programs and system for the new amputee center.

“I want to help them realize that there is life after this kind of injury. If they work hard and have the right mind set, anything is possible.”

When he’s not doing that, he competes in marathons, triathlons and also skis. Rozelle also recently competed in the Ironman competition. Rozelle is also the founder of Operation Rebound which is a program by the Challenged Athletes Foundation, aimed at helping seriously injured veterans get involved in sports and serves as both a role model and mentor for the soldiers served through Operation Rebound.

Rozelle recently gave a tour of his “work in progress,” the new Amputee Care Center at Walter Reed which will open later this fall. He’s now back at the very same hospital which gave him back his foot, his Army career and his life as he enjoyed it before his injury. The path he’s currently walking takes him on the forefront of amputee care, as the deputy to the program manager. When completed, the center will be equal to the Center for the Intrepid which opened earlier this year at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. While the Amputee Care Center will be smaller than the Center for the Intrepid, it will boast some of the same capabilities that it has, including upper and lower body specific training rooms, prosthetic adjustments, an indoor running track, a climbing and rappelling wall, and other exercise facilities aimed at getting patients to the “highest level of recovery and rehabilitation. The center will serve more than just amputees, including those suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury and other severe injuries.

The building that will house the Amputee Care Center will be about 30,000 square feet.
The building will feature two sides with glass walls, to allow the sunlight to enter the building and shine down into the lower level exercise rooms.

“It gives them hope as they are working out. They can look up and out and see the sunlight and think, ‘You know, I’m on my way to being back outside,’” Rozelle said. “If they’re up on the track running, they will see people on the road running right next to them. That will give them hope to take that running outside.”

When finished, the center will offer “the world’s best equipment and the world’s best therapists and the world’s best therapy,” he said.

“These guys and girls are going back to active duty, and on to world-class athlete sports programs, and off to college. We get them back to where they deserve to be, and that’s at the highest level of physical training and ability,” Rozelle said.

Rozelle was handpicked for this position due to his passion and committment to amputee care. As an amputee himself, he can guide the builders and engineers to ensure that the center will provide optimum functionality for other amputees. He takes his job, which is to build the center, help develop policy and programs and act as a mentor for the soldiers who come there, very seriously, pouring his heart and soul into it. Hopes are to have the center completed and the doors opened by October.

“I think some people initially thought that I was here just to be to be kind of a feel-good guy on staff and walk around and shake hands, but I’ve been working really hard since I got here to get this building up and get the program straight inside the building. I like to think that I’ve been integral in a lot of different things, but obviously my blood and sweat goes into this project here,” he said.

“Any day that this facility is not open is a day that we don’t have the best care for our veterans,” he said. “It’s going to be a world class facility.”

Rozelle said that the Army has come a long way in breaking the previous models on how it treats and rehabilitates amputees. He’s on the forefront in making that happen. Where care plans used to focus on getting the amputee into a wheel chair or getting them using crutches and turning them over to the VA system for continued rehabilitation, they now focus on completing their entire rehab at one place. There was little discussion about a servicemember returning to active duty, following such an injury. Rozelle said officials tried to push him that direction, but he wouldn’t have it. According to Rozelle, 63 amputees have now returned to active duty across all military services.

“The VA came to my room and gave me my separation paperwork. I kept saying, ‘What’s this separation thing? Just because I am an amputee? You guys are telling me about all of these prosthetic legs and stuff. I can continue to serve,’” Rozelle said. “So, I was one of the first to break the mold.”

Rozelle recounts returning to Iraq and the accomodations that had to be made, as an amputee on the battlefield. While it may have been difficult at times, it wasn’t anything that he wasn’t up to the task for.

“It depends on how you define difficulty. I just had to plan things a little better. I had to have a back-up foot in my backpack. I had to always carry back-up parts,” Rozelle said. “You have mechanical failures that you wouldn’t normally worry about with your body.”

Currently Rozelle is trying a new prosthetic leg. After a recent surgery, he now has more prosthetic legs and feet available to him. The liner he is testing is one of only three being used on a socket with a unique foot. It is an original running leg model with an attached high activity foot. It is designed to be more dynamic, allowing for more mobility and activity without having to change the foot.

“It’s pretty amazing. I can actually bend my knee all the way back,” he said.

He now changes his foot to match the activity he’s participating in. When he swims he doesn’t wear a prosthetic, when cycling he changes to a high energy foot and a different foot for running.

Rozelle has completed his command-time requirement and is now awaiting a seat at the Intermediate Leadership Education course, which was formerly known as the Command and General Staff College course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He’s hoping that the Amputee Care Center will be completed by the time he leaves for class. If he isn’t assigned a class date before the center is completed, Rozelle is pretty matter of fact about what the next step in his career will be.

“As soon as this is done, I’ll go back to the Cav, … back to Iraq … and keep fighting,” he said.



Competitor So Cal Online

ABC News

Major David Rozelle’s Ironman Coeur d’Alene Diary

Once again, I encourage each of you to get a copy of Major Rozelle’s book Back In Action-An American Soldier’s Story Of Courage, Faith and Fortitude. It is available for purchase at Amazon. Trust me when I say, that you won’t be disappointed and that you’ll be as inspired as I am by Major David Rozelle and his story.


41 Responses to “Amputee Blazing New Trails… Leading By Example, Inspiring Others”

  1. CommanderMom on June 14th, 2007 7:27 am

    OMGosh~An amazing story/update.Terri, thanks for putting this up! So happy to hear of the new and wonderful facility going up at WR! Bless Mjr. Rozelle, a truly inspirational Man!

  2. VTSharon on June 14th, 2007 10:42 am

    Great story. But what a pity this brave soldier is fighting a war, the genesis of which is based on lies and misrepresentations.

  3. Tracy on June 14th, 2007 10:46 am

    What an amazing story of determination and strength.

    Like CommanderMom, I am so happy to hear about the new facility at WR!!

  4. CommanderMom on June 14th, 2007 11:04 am

    I don’t know any soldier who wants pity, VT.

  5. VTSharon on June 14th, 2007 11:13 am

    Neither do I, Cmom. But what a pity the soldiers we do know are stuck fighting a war that was commenced based on lies and misrepresentations.

    Bush: the worst president ever. Got your bumper sticker yet, Cmom?

  6. CommanderMom on June 14th, 2007 11:33 am

    hahah Nope.

  7. CommanderMom on June 14th, 2007 11:34 am

    And don’t plan on it!!! VT

  8. Terri on June 14th, 2007 12:32 pm

    Sharon, apparently Major Rozelle believes in the mission. After his injury, he FOUGHT to stay in the Army AND to return to Iraq and from his last comment, he’s ready to head back to Iraq and continue with the mission.

    He had the ability to medically retire and no one would have faulted him in the least if he did. Instead, because he believes in the mission, he chose to overcome his disability and SOLDIER ON.

  9. ChrisG on June 14th, 2007 2:11 pm

    Maj Rozelle is a great example and leader and I am glad he is in charge of the center at WRAMC. His ethos and drive will help turn that place around and get Soldiers back into the fight and/or back into civilian life. I have no doubt he will take a Cav Squadron or Armor BN over when he reaches LTC and be outstanding there also.

    VT, you are so full of GARBAGE that I would respond personally, but cannot think of one nice thing to say about you, your politics, your lies, and your “knife in the back ’support’”. I pity you for your ignorance and willful adherence to the leftist political beliefs based on lies and deceit. Your antics are pathetic.

    But what should I expect from you besides the above?

    The war is NOT based on lies and we have found mountains of evidence to support not only actions in Iraq, but ties of Saddam’s Iraq to many other acts of terror in the world. More evidence is being translated and corroborated every day. The Clinton 1998 “indictment” of Bin Laden links him to Iraq and Iran. So did Clinton lie? Did Gore? Did Pelosi? They all said the same thing over and over and over. That is until the 2004 elections and the extreme left’s take over of the Democratic Party.

    Was the indictment a lie?

    And yet more

    “Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.”
    Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002.

    But this thread is about one man and his dedication to Soldiers and America. You, VT, cannot tarnish that no matter how you try.

  10. Terri on June 14th, 2007 3:11 pm

    I agree Chris. Major Rozelle and his reputation, ethos and dedication cannot be tarnished by any of the rhetoric coming from anyone who might wish to attempt to do so. Thank You for your input.

  11. VTSharon on June 14th, 2007 4:39 pm

    Chris, you are so full of right-wing neocon garbage I sometimes wonder why your head doesn’t simply explode.

    There is simply no evidence that Saddam and al Qaida conspired to commit terrorist activities against the United States, as BushCo led the nation to believe - nothing, notta, zippo!

    And your reference to a mere indictment falls well short of conclusive proof that such a link ever occurred.

  12. Terri on June 14th, 2007 5:26 pm

    Sharon you’re so full of hatred towards everything this country stands for, that you totally ignore all the evidence Chris has provided. I sometimes wonder why you’ve not moved your happy butt out of this country, since you’re so damn unhappy about things here. I have a feeling that even if a Democrat was in the White House, you’d bitch about it.

  13. VTSharon on June 14th, 2007 5:35 pm

    “I have a feeling that even if a Democrat was [sic] in the White House, you’d bitch about it.”

    We’ll find out come January 2009!!

  14. Terri on June 14th, 2007 5:54 pm

    According to one of your favorite sources (polls), Americans are even more unhappy with Congress, then they are with the President. So I’m sure that IF a Democrat gets elected, you’ll bitch and moan about what they’re doing as well. It seems to be your mantra.

  15. ChrisG on June 14th, 2007 6:40 pm

    For the sake of our Constitutional Freedoms and National Security, I hope no one in the current crop of Democrats EVER holds power in the White House. Maybe if you resurrected FDR or JFK we could talk, but both of them are “neocons” compared to the crap the Dems call their leadership. Both of them also held their allegiance to the USA above their party.

    I am full of the TRUTH Sharon!!!! Truth I SAW with my OWN EYES in Iraq. Truth I have referenced TIME AND AGAIN from various sources! Truth you, with all of you filth and bile WILL NOT accept. FAS is definatly NOT “neocon” and have no love for the USA. Yet there is Clinton’s indictment. Did he lie? Did Pelosi lie in 1998? Did the entire US and British governments and the UN lie from 1993-2002 on Iraq?? They ALL said the same things on both sides of the aisle. We FOUND the weapons, components, pre-cursors, and have written and oral testimonies given by Iraqis throughout the 90s and even today. We know many more weapons were taken to Syria in 2003 before the invasion from both sat recon and admissions from the Iraqis. Some of these weapons were used by Al Qaeda in a thwarted attack on Jordan in 2004. We have mountains of documents being painfully translated from Arabic to English. 120 MILLION pages.

    Here are yet sources.,2763,630183,00.html,1113,2-1195_1252843,00.html
    “Aymen” is “Aymen Al Zawahiri”

  16. Terri on June 14th, 2007 6:57 pm

    As usual Chris, Sharon won’t take the time to read the numerous sites you’ve referenced here again and again, with piles of information. Heaven forbid he/she actually see evidentiary proof of what you’ve and many, many other Soldiers have repeatedly said. Then she/he has the audacity to say that we’re blindly following what we’re told? The same could be said about her/him.

  17. ChrisG on June 14th, 2007 7:33 pm

    What is even more insane is how the left ignores the fact that thousands of US/AUS/UK Soldiers are saying the same things I am. Others across the MILBLOGs say the same. Why come to a MILBLOG and tell us we are fighting for a lie since we KNOW that statement is itself maliciously false.

    We sat in Iraq looking at the idiocy of the leftists while CNN played in the DFAC and could only shake our heads in amazement at their antics. Then we realized we were letting our blood pressure rise too often and started watching the History Channel or ESPN instead.

  18. Terri on June 14th, 2007 7:49 pm

    I know what you mean Chris. I, like you spend time everyday scouring the MilBlogs and I’m seeing repeatedly, Troops saying the same things that you, CJ, Anthony, Marty, Master Gunner and Cav Tanker are saying. At least for myself, knowing that this information is coming from Troops Who Have Been There or are Currently There carries a whole hell of a lot more weight than any media report.

  19. CavMom on June 15th, 2007 10:22 am

    An old retired officer explained the pecking order (for respect for info posted), as politely as he could explain to me, a civie.

    #1 - Boots on the Ground in the heat of the action
    #2 (and they are a very close second) - Those who just returned from the fight. The troops themselves
    #3 (a big gap between 2 & 3)- family of those in the action

    He added “Do not despair, the opinions of family members are valued far and above the opinions of those in the media.”

    #4 - the media
    #5 - those who are reduced to gaining any information from the media.

    He went on to say, “All a person needs to say is, ‘I heard it on the news,’ and I quit listening.”

    He makes a very good point, as most reporters today are not posting news. They are posting editorial/opinion type pieces.

  20. VTSharon on June 15th, 2007 11:01 am

    Yet again, no evidence. The articles (interesting that many come from the very media you all so despise) provide nothing but outdated and generally baseless suspicions that turned out to be false.

    Simply put, there is no evidence that Saddam and al Qaida conspired to harm America and there is no evidence that Iraq possessed the WMD that BushCo repeatedly said it possessed prior to invasion.

  21. Terri on June 15th, 2007 11:24 am

    There is no evidential basis for what you continually spout Sharon. Never you do cite any information or reference any sources, but you sure as hell quote a whole lot of polls.

  22. VTSharon on June 15th, 2007 11:43 am

    Speaking of polls, Terri, you must be in an absolute tizzy over the top post put up by Patriot at ASP today.


    Indeed, Patriot’s entire attempt “to highlight the positive indicators published in the [DoD] report [to Congress]” relies entirely on polls of Iraqis.

    I think you should wander on over to ASP, Terri, and set Patriot straight on his foolhardy and misguided reliance of polls to make his argument!

  23. ChrisG on June 15th, 2007 12:14 pm


    Sharon, I specifically used varied sources to counter crap criticisms you posted before. I would say that discussing topics with you is like talking to a wall, but that would be an insult to walls.

    Baseless suspicions? So the evidence put forward and FOUND in Iraq is Baseless? Document upon document which prove links are worthless? I would say something about what I think of your views, rationality, and intelligence, but unlike you, I will refrain for decency. Again Sharon, did the Democrats lie when citing the same intelligence and facts under Clinton? Did the NYTs lie? Did Newsweek? Did Pelosi lie on the House Intell Committee? DID THEY?

    I tell you what. You stick to your lies and stupidity Sharon. I and other Soldiers will TRY and keep you from being killed by them. I do not know what it will take to convince you since physical proof does not seem to work. I doubt even the imoliation of a city by a terrorist would convince you.

    Honestly Sharon, you are the one who is full of BS/lies/hate to the point I wonder why your head does not explode.

  24. Terri on June 15th, 2007 12:23 pm

    You’ve got that right Chris. Quite frankly, I’m quickly tiring of Sharon/CF/Nephi/Richard…… whoever the hell it is and their crap that’s so obviously colored by hatred.

  25. ChrisG on June 15th, 2007 12:30 pm

    Thank you for the link. Maybe you should read the rest of his post where he remarks about polls.

    While in Iraq, I showed Iraqis some of what you and other leftists/defeatists wrote. Their translated epitaphs are really not printable however, their opinion of your views is not high to say the least.

  26. Terri on June 15th, 2007 12:34 pm

    As typical of Sharon, he/she/it only choses to read bits of pieces of posts that are made and choses then to twist that information to suit her/his/it’s twisted idea of reality.

  27. VTSharon on June 15th, 2007 1:45 pm

    And typical of you, Terri, when you are busted, you sidestep the bust accusing me being consumed with hatred and of twisting information to suit my case.

    Why is it that whenever you hear an opinion you don’t like, the opinion-maker is labeled as being consumed with hate? That is so Hannityish!

  28. Terri on June 15th, 2007 2:04 pm

    You haven’t busted SHIT Sharon. It’s obvious that you’re so consumed with hate against Bush, that like Chris said, it’s amazing that your head doesn’t explode. You yourself have mentioned your hatred of Bush more times than I can count. I read Patriots article and only in ONE place does he refer to polls of any sort. It’s funny that you failed to mention the rest of his article. But quite frankly asshole, real life emergencies take presidence over your and your blather.

  29. VTSharon on June 15th, 2007 2:08 pm

    “In a nationwide poll, broken down by province, 77% of Iraqi respondents say they ‘feel safe and secure in my neighborhood.’”

    So do you agree with the statement? Yes or no? Either way, you are busted!

  30. Terri on June 15th, 2007 2:12 pm

    And how would that be? I don’t need a poll to tell me that the Iraqis are glad our Troops are there. What tells me that is the fact that more and more of them are cooperating by turning in insurgents into the Coalition Forces and Iraqi Forces. More and more of them are supplying information that leads our Troops to uncovering weapons caches, illegal operations and locations of insurgent training camps and torture houses. THAT is the evidence that I rely on. The only one BUSTED here is YOU, because I was able to point out your hatred.

  31. Terri on June 15th, 2007 2:19 pm

    You’d think by now Sharon that you’d have figured out that not one person here takes you and the crap you spew seriously at all. You have yet to give any proof to back up anything you say, while Chris and others have provided plenty of information backing up what they’re saying. Your arguments are pretty damn worthless as far as we’re concerned.

  32. VTSharon on June 15th, 2007 2:32 pm

    There you go with that “hate” thing again.

  33. Terri on June 15th, 2007 2:37 pm

    You’ve said yourself that you hate our President and what he stands for. Just recapping your remarks you’ve made in the past.

  34. VTSharon on June 15th, 2007 3:10 pm

    That’s correct, Terri. I dislike BushCo (including the criminal bush) to the point of hatred. BushCo has singlehandedly wrecked this country to the point of decades now likely being needed for repair.

    What has bush done for you lately, Terri, other than send your significant other to fight an intractable war whose genesis is based on lies and misrepresentations?

  35. Terri on June 15th, 2007 3:25 pm

    That’s your opinion Sharon. Some however believe in what our Troops are fighting for, regardless of the things you and your like spew. Chris has more than proven that what you claim is not true and quite honestly I believe someone who’s been there, over someone like yourself, who can’t even remember who they are from blog to blog, but instead has to rely on multiple personas.

  36. VTSharon on June 15th, 2007 5:47 pm

    So why is it, Terri, that opinions different from your own constitute “spew”? After all, and as you correctly state, it is my “opinion.”

    I wonder at times if your own hatred for those having opinions different from your own keeps you awake at night, if for no other reason than the realization that your opinions diverge so much from the current mainstream thinking about BushCo and the war in Iraq.

  37. Terri on June 15th, 2007 6:21 pm

    Quite honestly Sharon, I don’t hate you but instead I pity you. I was raised not to hate, but instead to do what I could to change things that I see in the world that aren’t right. One way I do that, is by posting information here which gives people a much clearer view of what’s really occurring in Iraq. Something that the media fails to do repeatedly. I pity the fact that you aren’t willing to acknowledge the positive things that are happening, but instead continue focus on the negative. There isn’t a one of us here who won’t admit that things aren’t the greatest in Iraq or Afghanistan and that some things possibly could have been handled differently. But, the one thing that I’ve repeatedly said here and will repeat once again, is that, I believe what I hear from the Troops who ARE there and who HAVE BEEN there. It’s obvious from what they’re saying that the media is NOT telling the entire story about what’s occurring there. With what the media reports, it’s no wonder people aren’t more supportive. If they would report the postive as well as the negative, I’d bet that many opinions would change.

    Quite honestly, I was raised to think for myself and not follow the mainstream crowd. I form my own opinions based on information from many sources. Overwhelmingly, on the subject of Iraq, I hear from those who are there or who have been there, something quite different than what the media tells us.

  38. VTSharon on June 15th, 2007 6:51 pm


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