"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse." --John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873)

Monday, October 18, 2004

"This Little Injury"

Hat tip to James Taranto for linking to this Associated Press story about an amputee paratrooper:

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) - George Perez...21, lost his leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq 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 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 next year.

...Doctors initially tried to save part of Perez's foot. But an infection crept up his leg, and Perez agreed to allow the amputation below the knee joint.

"I was going to stay in no matter what,'' he recalls telling the surgeons. "Do whatever would get me back fastest.''

Today, Perez looks every bit the part of paratrooper - tall, in ripped-ab shape and serious-looking. His uniform is sharply creased, his maroon beret sits at an exact angle above one eye and the black leather boot on his good leg gleams with a mirror shine. The only thing that sets him apart at a glance is the white running shoe on his prosthetic leg.

Perez has to go before another medical fitness board to determine whether he will be allowed to jump again. He also must pass the fitness test for his age - run two miles in just under 16 minutes and do at least 42 push-ups and 53 sit-ups in two-minute stretches.

...[H]is 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.''