The 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper had his right leg amputated above the knee in January after being injured in a homemade bomb blast near Baghdad.
Metzdorf, 27, underwent rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center this spring and looked forward to returning to his unit, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
This summer, however, the Army deemed him unfit for duty.
Metzdorf appealed twice and on Friday learned that he would be allowed to stay in the Army and with his unit.
"I hope guys can learn from my situation, and I feel very grateful that I can stay with this organization," Metzdorf said.
"I'm pretty pumped up about it."
Lt. Col. Theopia A. Deas, chief of the operations division for the U.S. Army Physical Disability Agency, signed Metzdorf's request for continuance on active duty, which allows him to remain in the Army until he completes 20 years service.
Metzdorf had been in Iraq 10 days when, on the evening of Jan. 27, he and about a half-dozen other soldiers were patrolling highways near Baghdad, looking for homemade bombs.
Unfortunately, they found what they were looking for - a rigged artillery shell hidden in a pile of trash.
Metzdorf and Sgt. Robert Jepsen left their armored Humvees to inspect the pile when the bomb went off.
The blast killed 2nd Lt. Luke James, 24; Sgt. Cory Mracek, 26; and Staff Sgt. Lester Kinney II, 27.
Metzdorf's right leg was badly injured. Jepsen was pierced with shrapnel, and Pfc. Jamie O'Connell received minor injuries.
Metzdorf was taken to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington after his amputation and began rehabilitation.
He harbored no bitterness about his injury and began his recovery with a smile on his face. He was fitted for an $85,000 computerized prosthetic leg this spring.
Metzdorf returned to Fort Bragg in April to greet members of his unit as they returned from Iraq. He continued to work toward recovery but was told at the end of July that he was unfit for duty.
He could have accepted the decision and received $2,300 to $2,400 a month for the rest of his life. Instead, he chose a third and final appeal.
A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at Walter Reed.
Metzdorf knows that he is "unfit" according to the strict definition - he obviously can't jump from airplanes anymore - but he considers himself a valuable soldier with combat experience and nine years of service.
"I felt my experience outweighed my limitations," Metzdorf said. "You can't buy this experience; you can't train this experience.
"This is a time where we have a lot of young soldiers, and they are going right into combat, and they need good leadership. I wanted to give back to them."
His wife, Teresa, said her husband wanted to stay in the Army because of his value as a soldier.
"He doesn't want to be a charity case," she said. "He wanted to be considered on his record."
Metzdorf had people in his corner - from the most junior member of Bravo Company to Maj. Gen. Bill Caldwell, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, he said.
He even had the backing of the sergeant major of the Army, Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Preston, who he met in May at a National Military Family Association dinner in Washington.
Metzdorf said he learned of the decision at 12:30 p.m., when he received a call from Maj. Tom Tosto, the 3rd Brigade surgeon. He said Tosto has been an advocate for his case since they met a few months ago.
Metzdorf said Tosto told him "the only thing I've got to do for him is the first time I run, I've got to run with him."
Teresa Metzdorf said her husband never gave up on himself.
"He would go online at night and look up regulations and protocol for the military," she said.
"When they told him he was unfit, he made phone calls and asked people to write letters for him. He spent day after day on this."
Metzdorf is unsure when he will be able to get back to work.
"At first, I'm probably going to stay in my company for a couple months and still be going through rehab and stuff like that," he said.
After he is able to resume physical training, his commanders will have to decide where to put him.
Metzdorf said some options are to place him with the battalion staff or put him in charge of a support and transportation battalion.
"Stuff like that they have just thrown around," he said. "It's all up to my unit on what they want to do with me."
The first thing Metzdorf must do is re-enlist. His Army commitment expires Dec. 2, and he had to get a waiver to be allowed to re-enlist.
In the meantime, Metzdorf is trying to find the perfect socket for his prosthetic leg - one that will allow him to get back up to speed.
Other than an infection in April, his recovery has been coming along nicely. He never quit thinking about his future in the Army.
"I would like to deploy again," Metzdorf said.
"There's still a job to do. By wanting to return to active duty, I have to accept that there would be that call one day.
"I'm staying in."
I'm not exactly sure where we find men like SSG Metzdorf. I'm just glad we did.
All the way!Posted by Blackfive | September 28, 2004 in Someone You Should Know | Permalink