November 01, 2004

"Missing (Parts) In Action team -- Some Assembly Required"

Via Army News Service:

"True grit keeps amputees on the run in Army Ten-Miler"
By Sgt. Lorie Jewell

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 26, 2004) They didn't take home any top awards in the Army Ten-Miler, but the performances of service members who lost limbs in Afghanistan and Iraq was, to many, nothing short of heroic.

Army Capt. David Rozelle, who lost part of his right leg below the knee in a June 2003 land mine explosion in Hit, Iraq, spearheaded the effort to put together a team of amputees from Walter Reed Army Medical Center for the Oct. 24 race, a kickoff to the annual Association of the United States Army meeting.

Dubbed the "Missing (Parts) In Action team -- Some Assembly Required“ -- the group included Staff Sgt. Andrew McCaffrey, Sgt. Ethan Payton, Marine Cpl. Dan Lasko, Navy Corpsman Jose Ramos and Airman 1st Class Anthony Pizzifred. Also running on the team was Lt. Col. Barbara Springer, chief of physical therapy; Capt. Matt Sherer, a physical therapist; and Spc. Harvey Naranjo, a certified occupational therapist assistant.

"It's important for people to see amputees recovered and back in action," Rozelle said prior to the race start, adding he had no doubts that each would make it across the finish line. The same steely mettle that helped steer them off the battlefield after suffering horrific injuries will carry them through the 10-mile route, Rozelle said.

"It's guts, nothing but guts. Some may walk, but that's okay. What matters is that they will finish," he said.

Rozelle, who served as team captain, has been relentless in not letting his injury prevent him from being the best Soldier he can be. He commanded a cavalry troop from Fort Carson in Iraq; after a medical board cleared him to remain on active duty earlier this year, he took command of a 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment headquarters troop. He's been alerted that he'll be deployed again to Iraq next year.

An expert skier, Rozelle hit the slopes again in December for a Disabled Sports USA ski clinic. In April, he participated in the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, put on by the Veterans Administration and Disabled American Veterans. With his prosthetic running leg, he completed a June Hope & Possibility 5-Miler in Central Park with several other Soldiers and service members from Walter Reed. And just a couple weeks ago, he finished a marathon -- a one-mile swim, 25 miles on a bike and a six-mile run. He plans on running in the New York City marathon next month.

More than 13,000 runners trekked across the Army Ten-Miler finish line in wet, cold weather. Rozelle predicted a 10-minute mile pace and came in just under that, at one hour, 38 minutes -- not far behind McCaffrey and Payton, both of whom ran without their prosthetic arms. McCaffrey finished in 1:34; Payton, 1:35. Ramos, who also left his prosthetic arm behind, came in with a time of 2:04.

"I finished, that's all I wanted to do," said Ramos, who lost his left hand to a rocket-propelled grenade while patrolling with Marines near Fallujah a couple of months ago.

The race was even tougher for Lasko and Pizzifred, who picked up their running prosthetics two days before the race. With no time to try them out and get any needed adjustments, they ran cold turkey.

Sherer ran with a backpack carrying the pair's prosthetic walking legs, backups in case the running legs caused too much pain. He buddied up with Pizzifred, while Naranjo ran with Lasko.

Naranjo came across the finish line carrying Lasko's prosthetic, yelling encouragement for the last 100 yards or so to Lasko, who pushed himself into a sprint for a 2:18 finish.

Despite some pre-race worries about getting traction on the wet pavement, Lasko said he didn't experience any major problem along the course.

"I was a little sore," he admitted, smiling. The longest distance he had run on a prosthetic before the Ten-Miler was five miles, he added. Like Rozelle, Lasko participated in the Hope & Possibility run in Central Park several months ago.

Naranjo had nothing but praise for his run buddy. The new prosthetic rubbed Lasko in the wrong ways quite a bit through the run, Naranjo said.

"Here's a guy who some months ago was laying in a hospital bed, wondering if he'd ever be able to walk again," Naranjo said. "And look at what he just did. He's my hero. These guys are what make me get up in the morning and do what I have to do. I see people everyday overcoming much greater challenges that I have."

Sherer was equally complimentary about Pizzifred, who started feeling pain from the new prosthetic almost from the start. The pair finished with a time of 2:44.

"It was really impressive to watch them run through the pain," said Sherer. "I'll tell you, it's an honor to be associated with these guys. They've given, and they continue to give."

Sherer and others hope to see the MPIA team continue to revisit the Ten-Miler in the years to come. He just hopes future teams will be filled with alumni and short on newly- injured Soldiers.

(emph. mine)

These guys simply rock.

For more images of these great heroes and living definitions of perserverance, click here and scroll towards the bottom.

Posted by Kyer at November 1, 2004 11:53 AM