By Gerry J. Gilmore
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2006 – Two Army combat veterans who both lost something dear in the war against terrorism say they are determined to keep on battling, and proving it as they prepare to run the Army 10-Miler race tomorrow. In December 2005, Spc. James Stuck was wounded by an improvised explosive device blast in Kirkuk, Iraq. His right leg was later amputated at mid-shin. Spc. Joseph Keck, an Afghanistan veteran, lost his lower left arm just below his elbow after being injured in an IED explosion near Kandahar in July.
Yet, Stuck and Keck are upbeat as they continue to recover from their wounds. They also will run in tomorrow's Army 10-Miler race as members of the Missing Parts in Action team from Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.
The two soldiers related their experiences today during an Army 10-Miler press conference yesterday at a local suburban hotel.
"I went skiing five weeks after I'd lost my leg," Stuck, a 22-year-old from Pittsburgh, recalled. "So, it just shows what you can accomplish." He has also taken up kayaking and snowboarding since he was injured.
Noting he's come a long way since being injured, Stuck said his goal at the 10-Miler "is to just finish the race."
Stuck attributed his rapid recovery to being able to come to terms with his condition and the adoption of a positive outlook.
"Hey, I'm lucky to be alive," Stuck said. "So, you accept it. There's nothing you can do to go into the past to change it."
Keck, who hails from Rockford, Ill., said he has completed 12-mile runs during unit physical training sessions. The 22-year-old said he's savoring the opportunity to compete in the 10-Miler.
"It's something I know I can do," Keck said. "Just, now, I'm looking at how fast I can do it."
Besides competing at the 10-Miler, Keck said he also anticipates taking his motorcycle for a spin when he goes home for a visit in the spring.
Keck said he is determined, like Stuck, to make a full recovery. He also accepts the loss of his arm, having realized soon after being wounded that he might lose it.
"When they told me that they were going to amputate it, I already knew," Keck recalled. His recovery has "been a little hill to climb," he acknowledged.
However, Keck today reiterated his determination "to carry on," as he prepares for the 10-Miler.
Army Capt. Matthew Scherer, an Iraq War veteran, accompanied Stuck and Keck at the Army 10-Miler press conference. Born in Joliet, Ill., Scherer, 35, is the chief of Walter Reed's amputee physical therapy section. He's also a supporting therapist and co-organizer of the MPIA team.
The MPIA team first competed at the Army 10-Miler in 2004, Scherer said. The 10-Miler "is a world-class race," he said, where wounded warriors can come together in sports and work as a team.
Scherer said the MPIA team is co-sponsored by the U.S. Armed Forces Amputee Patient Care Program. This year's MPIA team has 14 wounded servicemembers representing all the military services and 18 physical-therapist supporters, he said.
One of the AFAPCP's goals "is to help folks reach their maximum level of functional capability after they've lost a limb" or sustained other types of severe injuries, Scherer said.