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October 19, 2004

Paratrooper Who Lost Leg Intends to Re-Enlist

As LauraW says, now here are men:

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - George Perez lost his leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq (news - web sites) more than a year ago, but despite the phantom pains that haunt him, he says he is determined to prove to the Army that he is no less of a man — and no less of a soldier.

"I'm not ready to get out yet," he says. "I'm not going to let this little injury stop me from what I want to do."

Perez, 21, still feels the sweat between his toes when he exercises. He's still plagued with nagging cramps in his calf muscle. And sometimes, when he gets out of bed at night without thinking, he topples over.

He is one of at least four amputees from the 82nd Airborne Division to re-enlist. With a new carbon-fiber prosthetic leg, Perez intends to show a medical board he can run an eight-minute mile, jump out of airplanes and pass all the other paratrooper tests that will allow him to go with his regiment to Afghanistan (news - web sites) next year.

...

When he arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for his rehabilitation, Perez asked a pair of generals who visited his bedside if it was possible for him to stay in the Army.

"They told me, 'It's all up to you, how much you want it,'" he says. "If I could do everything like a regular soldier, I could stay in."

He wasted little time getting started. At one point, a visitor found him doing push-ups in bed. He trained himself to walk normally with his new leg, and then run with it.

Perez has to rise at least an hour earlier than his fellow soldiers to allow swelling from the previous day's training to subside enough for his stump to fit into the prosthetic.

But it is a comfort for Perez to know he's not alone.

At least three other paratroopers in the 82nd have lost limbs in combat during the past two years and re-enlisted. One of them, Staff Sgt. Daniel Metzdorf, lost his right leg above the knee in a Jan. 27 blast. He appealed three times before the fitness board allowed him to stay on.

"I think it's a testimony to today's professional Army," says division commander Maj. Gen. Bill Caldwell. "I also think, deep down, it is a love for their other paratroopers."

...

For now, he must content himself with a job maintaining M-16s and M-4s, machine guns and grenade launchers in his company's armory. But his dream is to attend the grueling Ranger school at Fort Benning, Ga., a serious challenge to even the most able-bodied soldier.

"I got a lot of things to do," he said. "I want to do as much as I can, as much as they'll let me."

Hasn't he heard this is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time? Doesn't he understand that America cannot fight without the support of some cowardly Frenchmen?

And... This ad is pretty heartwarming, although I don't know how important it is that a President comforted the grieving. I mean, it's important for this specific family, but not for our country generally.

Thanks to Instapundit for the link, and to Richard Newell for reminding me of it.


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posted by Ace at 02:00 PM

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