Amputees Begin Returning to Battlefield

Cpl. Jemel Daniels was a gunner on patrol with his unit in Iskandere, Iraq (search), when his Humvee hit a makeshift bomb on the side of the road.

"I shot out of the turret 30 feet into the air and fell into a ditch on the side of the road. My friends dragged me across the road. Just two of us actually got out and three passed away," the corporal said.

Daniels works out hard without appearing to give much thought now to his injuries — an amputated left leg, a battered arm and a shattered right foot now stabilized by painful steel pins running through it. None of his wounds have deterred his future plans.

"I'm staying active duty," he said.

It used to be that soldiers who lost arms or legs in battle would be headed home for good. But more and more seriously wounded soldiers are telling the U.S. Army (search) that they want to get back to their posts. It's a phenomenon that's caught the attention of the military's top brass and even President Bush.

"Americans would be surprised to learn that a grievous injury such as the loss of a limb no longer means forced discharge," Bush noted in a speech at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (search) in December 2003.

The return to the battlefield would not be possible without new science.

"Prosthetics are better. Technology is improved and that provides a better opportunity for the individual," said Col. William Howard, chief of occupational therapy at the hospital.

At Walter Reed, the primary facility for amputees, patients are fitted with arms that look surprisingly lifelike and mechanical legs that enable them to do nearly anything that real legs can.

Sgt. Brandon Wooldridge lost his leg when his Humvee was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. He is getting comfortable on his new leg and has already contacted his unit about returning.

"They said when I first get back, they will put me at an office job, and hopefully during that time I can go back and be part of the unit," Wooldridge told FOX News.

In fact, most amputees recovering at Walter Reed intend to resume their military careers. But even with modern technology, heading back into action may be a long shot. Of the roughly 200 amputees who've survived combat in Afghanistan (search) and Iraq, only eight have been approved for return to active duty. Col. Robert Woods, who works in disabled soldier support, said he believes that number will go up.

"Soldiers and their families have to understand that continuing on active duty is a viable option for them and we're just now truly getting the word out to our soldiers in our hospitals around the world so they know this is an option," he said.

Daniels said he is counting on that.

"I can't see myself leaving. I'm too dedicated to the Marine Corps. It's done so much for me in the beginning. I'm not going to let this hold me down, you know," he said.

While only a handful of amputees have succeeded in returning to active duty, these veterans are beginning to prove that an injury that's life-threatening doesn't have to be career-threatening as well.

Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Mike Emanuel.