Photos and text used with permission of SFC (Ret) Daniel Metzdorf.
SFC (Ret) Daniel Metzdorf was born December 22, 1976, but celebrates January 27, 2004 as his "Alive Day," the day he received a second chance at life.
Metzdorf first joined the U.S. Army in June 1995 and was deployed to Iraq in January 2004 as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Just a few weeks into his deployment, on the night of January 27, Metzdorf was on a routine patrol 50 miles south of Baghdad searching for enemy combatants when a roadside bomb exploded. Flying debris hit Metzdorf, severely injuring him and forcing the amputation of his right leg eight inches above the knee.
He was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to recover. After seven months in the hospital, twenty-seven surgeries, and three medical review boards, Metzdorf re-enlisted. Eager to return to his comrades, he became the first above-the-knee amputee to remain on active duty with the 82nd Airborne Division.
Metzdorf credits his amazing recovery to the doctors and nurses at Walter Reed-and to his Veteran amputee mentors. He explains, "These gentlemen showed me that life will continue and can be enjoyable. It will take a lot of work on my part, and in that struggle I will never be alone."
In September 2006, he was invited to become a "champion of the skies" and join The Golden Knights, the elite U.S. Army Parachute Team. Metzdorf pioneered again, becoming the first above-the-knee amputee to pass the six-week course and be "knighted," going on to perform hundreds of jumps and sharing his story with the American public.
Through trial and error, Metzdorf learned important lessons about his injury and dealing with prosthetics. However, it took him several years to learn that his recovery was more than skin deep. Metzdorf recalls, "After surviving combat, countless bouts of infection, and my parachute collapsing 35 feet above the ground, it was my mental and emotional state that was going to be the death of me." Metzdorf gathered the same strength he used in learning how to walk again to begin the healing within. He now knows that January 27 bears more meaning than the loss of his right leg-it is also the day he fought hard to survive and was granted a second chance at life. Keeping this notion in mind helped Metzdorf overcome the obstacles of his injury and the emotional scars left behind by his difficult experiences. Inspired by the term "Alive Day," which he first heard in the hospital, Metzdorf founded AliveDay.com, an advocacy website. By telling his story and providing a forum for others to do so, Metzdorf hopes that he can make a difference in the recovery of those who have experienced traumatic physical and psychological injuries.
Keeping with the philosophy that "knowledge is only power if you share it," Metzdorf serves as a consumer advocate for the Peer Reviewed Orthopaedic Research Program (PRORP). In his words, "It is my duty to share the practical knowledge of what I have learned and what others have taught me along the way." Participating in the PRORP peer review, among distinguished scientists and clinicians, Metzdorf is able to offer his perspective on the sorts of research that might yield the most value to individuals with orthopaedic injuries. He expresses astonishment at the respect and gratitude shown to the consumers as they shine a light upon their own life experiences. As a consumer reviewer, Metzdorf reflects, "One of the most energizing moments is when I ignore everything going on in my life and realize that I am helping someone else to have a better quality of life. I know that I would not be where I am today, physically or mentally, without others sharing their knowledge with me. I am always learning and will continue to share the knowledge I gain through my participation as a consumer reviewer with PRORP."
Last updated Friday, February 5, 2016