- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Dan Sheret, an amputee who bicycled 360 miles to visit yesterday with U.S. soldiers who lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan, asked a young soldier in Ward 57 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to autograph his T-shirt.

“We’re going to wear the shirts across Europe to show them what Americans are made of,” Mr. Sheret told Staff Sgt. Heath Calhoun, 24, who lost both his legs above the knee in Mosul, Iraq, on Nov. 7, 2003, when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the Humvee he was riding in.

Sgt. Calhoun took the shirt and signed it with a Sharpee pen. “Tell the French we said ‘Hi,’” he told Mr. Sheret, and smiled. Those in the hallway exploded with laughter.

Mr. Sheret, 42, of Wilmington, N.C., pedaled 360 miles along with Brad Kennedy, 28, of Jackson, Miss., and Mitch Reinitz, 48, of Seattle, to visit with wounded U.S. soldiers. The threesome set out from Wilmington on Saturday and arrived in the District yesterday morning.

They are preparing to ride 2,800 miles across Europe in April, from Glasgow, Scotland, to Athens, to raise awareness about the ability of those with prosthetic limbs to remain active.

The three men spent about three hours with wounded soldiers at Walter Reed. The 250-bed Walter Reed has treated hundreds of casualties from Operation Iraqi Freedom since the war began.

Sgt. Calhoun, of Grundy, Va., who wore North Carolina basketball shorts on top of his state-of-the-art prosthetic legs, carried newly fitted snowboard boots, which he’ll use tomorrow in Vail, Colo. It will be his first time snowboarding.

In another room, the three bikers talked for nearly 30 minutes with Staff Sgt. Daniel Metzdorf, 27, of Fayetteville, N.C., who lost his right leg above the knee on Jan. 27. He and another soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division were critically injured when an Iraqi insurgent detonated an improvised explosive device they were inspecting. Three soldiers with Sgt. Metzdorf were killed.

Despite that, the irrepressible Sgt. Metzdorf did most of the talking. “I’m so excited about the future,” he said. He talked about being able to ride personal watercraft again, telling the bikers that he was being outfitted with a prosthetic leg for use in the water.

The walls in Sgt. Metzdorf’s hospital room were covered with cards. One card included the Bible verse Isaiah 41:10, which says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Inside the card was written, “Thinking of you every day. Hope you are healing in mind and body. Aunt Norma.”

A picture of Sgt. Metzdorf and movie star Tim Robbins, who visited Tuesday, hung over his bed. In the picture, Sgt. Metzdorf held the Academy Award that Mr. Robbins won Sunday night for best supporting actor in the movie, “Mystic River.”

Sgt. Metzdorf kept exhorting the three bikers. “There’s nothing to feel sorry for yourself about. The guys in Iraq and Afghanistan, they’re the ones doing the hard work … missing their wives,” Sgt. Metzdorf said told the men, who listened quietly.

“It is all about attitude,” he said, telling the story of a 19-year old soldier he visited with who had sunk into depression because of his injuries. “I told him, ‘As a soldier, it is your job to get better.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’”

As the bikers left, Sgt. Metzdorf thanked them. “Just seeing you with your legs totally pumps me up.”

Another injured soldier, Staff Sgt. Roy Mitchell, who lost his left leg in a Nov. 23, 2003, incident in Pakistan, said, “You guys are a big inspiration. I was really wondering if I was going to be able to get back on my bike.” Mr. Sheret told him about a Web site for amputees who ride mountain bikes.

After visiting with a soldier in the physical-therapy ward who was being fitted for his prosthetic leg, the three bike riders prepared to leave. They remarked about the optimism and energy of the soldiers they had visited.

“I don’t know if we helped them as much as they helped us,” Mr. Kennedy said.

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