WASHINGTON – This article is the second in a two-part series on the return of amputee soldiers to active duty.
At Walter Reed Army Medical Center (search), dozens of amputees at a time spend their days learning to rebuild their lives. For many, that process includes the dream of returning to active duty in spite of what previously had been seen as insurmountable limitations.
"When you do the job at a certain level ... you want to stay in and complete what you started. I want to go back to be part of the team again," said Sgt. Kofi Antwi, a 13-year Army veteran who was serving with the 1st Regiment, 7th Cavalry (search), before being wounded in Iraq.
National Guardsman and Army veteran Tim Gustafson endured two amputations on the same leg, the first at the foot and the second just below the knee, which he chose to undergo when doctors told him he would recover more quickly and the prosthetics options for amputations like his initial one were limited. Now, just nine weeks after his injury, he's talking about returning to active duty — as a commissioned Army officer — once he finishes college.
"Try and contribute and give to forces now what we have, and some of the newer guys we have who might not have the combat experience," Gustafson said.
That's exactly what Capt. David Rozelle is doing. The first amputee with a combat command, Rozelle, of the 3rd Armored Cavalry (search), arrived in Baghdad just about a week ago. His prosthesis has a patch from his unit and the U.S. flag imprinted on it.
"It's ready for the war," he said.
Rozelle lost his foot in the city of Hit in June 2003 when his Humvee hit a landmine. Now helping to provide security for the citizens of Iraq, it wasn't always easy for him to think about returning.
"At the very beginning, I had a lot of self pity," he said. "I was laying in the Army hospital just outside here, when I first found out that I was going to lose my foot. Of course, I thought I'd given enough," he said.
But Rozelle said that mindset didn't last long.
"I wanted to come back into the job. Coming back to Iraq wasn't really the ultimate goal. Of course, now that I'm here, It's brought things full circle — in other words, it's taken me back to the point where I lost my foot the first time. It's allowed me to start my life again, in Iraq, where I thought it had ended," he said.
Rozelle admits that it hasn't always been easy back in Iraq and he's had to make some adjustments.
"Any time you find yourself in position where you have to walk all the time, as an amputee, that's a challenge in itself because it's much more difficult on your body to do something like walk all day. I try to drive as much as I can," he said.
Rozelle's injury doesn't appear to be fazing the unit he commands. If anything, they're grateful to have him around.
"If anything does go down, it's good to know he has the experience to keep everything in control and not let anything get out of hand," said combat medic Richard Arsenault.
After almost two years away from Iraq (search), Rozelle said he was surprised to see how much had changed since he'd last been there. He recalled a more uncertain environment, when the insurgency movement seemed to be growing.
"I was there in the very beginning, when things seemed a little rocky in Iraq, and just in the week I've been here I've seen great things in Iraq," he said. "I've seen the whole route up here. I've seen Iraqi forces securing the routes; I saw Iraqi police in every city," he said.
The changes are encouraging signs for wounded soldiers like Rozelle, who finally made it back to Iraq. After a long and painful struggle, they see the sacrifice they've made paying off in the liberty of the Iraqi people.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Mike Emanuel.