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Organization helps amputee veterans find community

The U.S. Department of Defense said 1,500 veterans lost limbs during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The sacrifice of U.S. veterans is beyond measure. Many commit their lives to fight for the freedoms of those back home. Sometimes, that commitment and sacrifice can mean losing something irreplaceable.

That's the case for Lantz Rossman. He lost a limb but gained a community.

Rossman has always been active. He goes to the gym every day and loves to explore the great outdoors. He does all this as a below-knee amputee. 

Rossman, like many other amputees, lost his left leg during combat.

"I remember being in school when 9/11 happened. So, that was kind of like a very, very formative thing in my childhood," Rossman said. 

He said it convinced him to join the military. He started in August 2009 as an infantry Marine in Kings Bay, Georgia. He moved up through the ranks and became a Staff Sergeant.

"It was interesting. It was dynamic. It was challenging, and it was everything that I wanted it to be," Rossman said.

However, one night changed everything.

"August 10, of 2019, I was involved in what's called a 'close ambush,'" Rossman said. "So, two guys with AK-47s came out of nowhere, basically. We had bad visibility and bad terrain. It didn't work out in my favor. So, I actually got shot through the left ankle."

He also got shot in the right leg through his fibula and tibia. While the right leg healed, the left leg didn't.

"I tried to salvage the limb for about nine months or so ... then, decided that ankle wasn't tenable. It just hurt all the time, and I didn't have the function," Rossman said.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, about 1,500 service members lost limbs in the wars in the Middle East. Rossman was one of them.

"I went ahead and just made the decision to amputate. From a function standpoint, that was absolutely the right call," Rossman said.

During his time in the hospital, an organization called Semper-Fi & America's Fund stepped in.  A case manager connected him to other amputees, who were able to relate, understand and help Rossman through the decision-making process.

"She plugged me in with a bunch of different amputees that she had known over the years, that she had met. That was nice, from my perspective of just being freshly injured," Rossman said.

Those folks gave Rossman perspective.

"Just kind of having the conversation of, 'Oh, hey, you're messed up. I'm messed up, let's be friends together.' That kind of thing. It was really nice," Rossman said.

Thanks to the help of this community, Rossman was able to get back to being active. He said he is thriving with his prosthetic. 

Semper-Fi & America's Fund is raising money alongside the Parson Foundation. For every dollar that someone donates to Semper-Fi & America's Fund the Parson Foundation matches that up to $10 million.

For more information, visit their website.

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