Capt. Dennis Skelton took a rocket-propelled grenade to the chest during the second battle in Fallujah. On Sept. 8 he returned to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to thank the hospital staff for helping him recover from major injuries.
“It felt like being punched really, really hard in the chest,” he said.
He took fragmentation to the face, entering and shattering his jaw and exiting through his left eye. The area from his left eyebrow down to his cheek was gone. His left eye is a prosthetic and he has limited use of his left arm. But considering that multiple amputations were a strong possibility
upon his arrival at LRMC, he came out well ahead of the curve.
“Too many times you all don’t know what happened to the patients you treat,” he said. “We are wheeled out of here and you are left wondering how the recovery went. We don’t do a good job of updating you and I want to do that now. I want to say, ‘thank you.’ ”
The captain spoke at LRMC’s Heaton Auditorium as a morale boost to the staff. He inspired the audience with his story of courage and determination to remain in the Army even after he was told his injuries would force him out. He made a video that showed him rock climbing, ruck marching and expertly qualifying with his weapon.
“I asked the medical board to play the video and tell me why I wasn’t fit to be a Soldier,” he said. “I didn’t pass the board, but due to a recent policy change I was able to remain on active duty.”
He now is a military advisor within the Office of the Secretary of Defense and works issues with severely wounded. People always talk about post-traumatic stress disorder: well, he talks about post-traumatic growth.
“I am trying to make the Army rethink the way it views disabled Soldiers,” he said. “They (disabled Soldiers) are doing great things and it’s a result of the things you do and the love with which you do them,” he said. “There is a direct correlation between the compassion you all give and the miraculous recoveries that we have.”