Darkhorse Battalion Marine Amputees Focus on Rehab

After losing his leg, Chischilly underwent rehabilitation in San Diego. He uses a recumbent bike equipped with hand pedals. He finished 16th in the wheelchair portion of the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 30 in Washington. Photo by David Gilkey/NPR.

Thirty-four of the Marines who were with “Darkhorse” Battalion are amputees. The injuries and deaths incurred during their seven month deployment to Afghanistan gave the 3/5 the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit during the past 10 years. In his ongoing series, National Public Radio’s Tom Bowman brings us the stories of the long road back for some Marines who are adjusting to life as amputees.

Sixth of seven parts

Jake Romo loved running.

“Running was my favorite thing to do. I can almost say that I loved running more than my wife and kids,” he said. “I would run with weights. If I was just running with shorts and a T-shirt, I could run all day. I would run and run and run and not stop.”

But these days, he can’t run. Wounded in Afghanistan, Romo’s legs are now just stumps, wrapped in khaki fabric.

Romo, a lance corporal, is one of dozens of Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment — known as “Darkhorse” — who have come to the Balboa naval hospital in San Diego, Calif., for rehabilitation work after the serious injuries they suffered in southern Afghanistan. A total of 34 Marines lost limbs.

On this day, Romo is doing an upper-body workout. A physical therapist helps one Marine with weights. Just outside, another Marine who lost a leg is now climbing a rock wall.

“We have to hold these guys back,” said Michael Podlenski, a physical therapist at Balboa who works with as many as 30 amputees each day. “All these guys are very motivated. They wanted to be running yesterday.”

Romo, 22, was on his first deployment when he lost his legs in February.

You can read the full story and hear Tom Bowman’s story HERE.

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