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Amputee who returned to Iraq appears at fundraiser for disabled ski program

U.S. Army Maj. David Rozelle was first commander to return to battlefield after becoming combat-wounded amputee since Civil War

February 04, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • U.S. Army Maj. David Rozelle was signing copies of his book "Back in Action: An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude" Friday night and also spoke during the Wounded Warrior Project fundraiser held at Bridge of Life Center in downtown Hagerstown.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Bill Dietrich describes himself as "a ski bum with a purpose."

On Friday night, the founder and executive director of Two Top Adaptive Sports Foundation said his goal was to raise a few thousand dollars for the disabled ski program he runs at Whitetail Ski Resort to provide equipment and instruction for wounded soldiers.

His ammunition for the fledgling nonprofit foundation's fundraiser was an appearance by U.S. Army Maj. David Rozelle, an amputee who has returned to Iraq for two tours of duty since being wounded in 2003.

Rozelle, who lost all but 21 centimeters of his right leg to a land-mine explosion in Iraq, wrote the New York Times-best selling book, "Back in Action: An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude."

Rozelle told more than 60 people attending the fundraiser, which featured the showing of the movie, "The Story," that his concern about being able to ski again was of utmost importance to him.

As time passed, Rozelle said he learned that he could find freedom again on snow as a skier.

"I couldn't run, I couldn't walk, but I could ski," said Rozelle, who said he was the first commander to return to the battlefield after becoming a combat-wounded amputee since the Civil War.

Currently stationed in Savannah, Ga., with the 3rd Infantry Division, the 38-year-old Austin, Texas native said he doesn't know when he will finish his military career, which now spans 18 years.

Dietrich said he met Rozelle five years ago when Dietrich was teaching an amputee how to ski at Whitetail.

 "It was his idea to create an ongoing program (for wounded warriors)," Dietrich said.

So far this season, Dietrich said he has received 70 to 80 visits by wounded soldiers for the disabled skiing program, which works with all forms of disabilities.

A visit by one wounded warrior, typically from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., or from the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., costs more than $100 per day, Dietrich said.

"These young men and women ... that are coming back from the conflicts around the world right now, they deserve our support and they're going to need our support for a long time," Dietrich said.

Given the expense, Dietrich, who obtained nonprofit 501(c)(3) status in 2007 for the organization, said he's hoping to obtain corporate sponsors.  

More information about Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation is available on the Internet at http://www.twotopadaptive.org

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