Iraq War

Most recently we saw the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army in the headlines as paratroopers from the division helped provide security for relief efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The first time I saw Staff Sergeant Daniel Metzdorf he was boasting to a couple of FBI agents that it was his unit that helped rescue people in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina earlier that fall. He wanted to go with his unit to New Orleans, to help, but his superiors would not let him – he had lost his right leg, above the knee, in an IED blast in Iraq eight months earlier. “18 hours and wheels up!” he proclaimed, “that’s our motto, and that’s why they call us when someone has to get there quick.”

In my documentary for radio, “Metzdorf’s War”, we hear Metzdorf and those closest to him in his professional and family life tell the story about the night he lost his leg. The piece goes on to follow Metzdorf through the story of his fight for his life, and the struggle to stay on active duty, and finally the challenge to overcome the trauma of his injuries to once again embrace life fully.

Over the course of reporting on Metzdorf’s story I also got to know Captain Matthew Hardman, Metzdorf’s company commander in Iraq. Metzdorf, known as the unit’s “bulldog”, called Hardman a “nerd” in turn. Hardman was a graduate student by the time I met him, studying history, but he intended to return to the Army. Hardman was a career soldier at heart, with a fascination for historical maps and warfare tactics, an ambitious officer who truly cared for his men. Hardman, like all those I interviewed who were there the night Metzdorf lost his leg, felt deeply the loss and sense of responsibility, and was almost disarmingly open in expressing his sorrow and concern. There were tearful moments, and also angry moments, as he recounted the experience of losing men under his command, and having others badly injured. The interview is on video, and will follow shortly, but I also tried to tell the story in a print piece called “God and Physics Get A Vote”.