By CATRINA FRANCIS
Gold Standard Senior Staff Writer
Graduating from the Combatives Level I course is an easier-said-than-done task for most Soldiers. But if you have prosthesis it can almost seem impossible. But Staff Sgt. Patrick Marziale of the Human Resources Command Special Actions Branch made that task come to fruition when he graduated from the class Sept. 27.
Marziale was injured in Iraq on Feb. 8, 2009 when a hand-held armor piercing grenade hit his vehicle.
“Two individuals hit my truck (on the) driver’s door and every compartment,” Marziale recalled about the attack. “I lost the lower part of my leg. I reached down and thought it was debris. I felt the side of my foot (and it) was gone. I looked at the driver to see if he was OK – he wasn’t.
“I tried setting up security and began taking care of my guys (because when the enemy attacked) they liked to follow up with (a) small arms (attack).”
Like many who have lost a limb the initial feeling is shock and possibly feeling sorry for oneself. Marziale said he too had all of those feelings. He was broken and believed his wife would leave him because he no longer had two legs.
“I had a chance to talk to my wife and she said, ‘I don’t care. You are still my husband,’” he said about the conversation he had with his wife.
After Marziale was medically evacuated from Joint Base Balad, Iraq he landed in Germany. After leaving Germany then for Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Marziale decided he wanted to remain in the Army.
“I joined the Army because I love my country,” explained Marziale. “My entire Family has served. (There is) strong patriotism for me, (so) it was a no-brainer to stay in, still serve my country (and) doing what I love.”
Not only has Marziale continued serving he’s also trying to become assigned to a brigade combat team to deploy.
He’s also not let his prosthesis hinder him in running, push-ups or sit-ups during physical fitness training.
Even though the standards are altered for amputees, Marziale doesn’t like the alternate events.
“Walking sucks (and I didn’t) like the bike,” he said. “I didn’t want to sit while my Soldiers ran. (I’m) learning to run again and adapt to the prosthesis. I lost a minute (on my run). I’m running (two-miles) in about 14 minutes.”
Marziale pointed out that he’s the same person now he has prosthesis. He’s even resorted to telling tall tales about how he lost his limb.
“(It’s) given me other opportunities,” he said. “(It’s) given me something to pick on people with. When I first started walking around, kids would ask what happened. I would tell them I was in a fight with a shark and lost.”
For many with a prosthesis training for combatives might seem like an unattainable goal, but Marziale said he was interested in martial arts before his injury and that interest didn’t wane because he’s an amputee.
He does admit to having a few difficulties, and when that happens he takes the prosthesis off to make things easier.
Sgt. Tomas Walker of Cadet Command, and a combatives instructor, was a little hesitant when he learned Marziale would be in the class.
“I didn’t know if I should try and modify the techniques,” he said. “I called a few people and (I called) my mentor and he said, ‘Teach him how you would normally teach it.’
“I watched to see if I should do something different. (Marziale) let me know he was just another student. My only real concern was the tactical portion of class. Sometimes bodies become tangled and (I was concerned) someone would fall into (his prosthesis). Any type of injury is put under a microscope. I didn’t see any physical limitation, and he didn’t hesitate.”
Walker even encouraged Marziale to complete some of the training without the prosthesis by saying, “If it’s easier for you or better roll without it.”
Since losing his limb Marziale hasn’t let anything hold him back from completing a goal. He said, “Don’t give up. Pain is temporary. The pride you have in yourself is all that matters. The only thing holding you back is your mind.
“If I can do it you can do it. (There are) still amputees in Special Forces and a guy in MMA (mixed-martial arts) with one arm.”