Fairbanks Iraq veteran copes with loss of limb

Three months after surgery for prosthetic, soldier climbs a tree along with his 7-year-old daughter

Posted: Sunday, January 04, 2004

FAIRBANKS - When doctors told Allan Doyle he might lose his lower leg and foot after it was crushed in an accident in Iraq last spring, the Army corporal and Fairbanks native told them to do it and get it over with.

"It's a lot better to have a totally functioning prosthetic than to have a foot that doesn't necessarily function normal," Doyle said.

He knew what it was like living with a half-operational limb.

His uncle, Larry Parrish, went through more than 20 surgeries to repair an injury he suffered while working for the Air Force in 1988. Parrish finally told doctors to take his leg.

When Doyle, 31, asked his uncle how to get over the trauma, Parrish's advice was, "Put your best foot forward and say, 'I'm going to do it today. I'm going to do it.' "

Now the two sport prosthetics that start just below their knee.

Three months after the surgery, Doyle was climbing a tree at his grandparent's house in Pennsylvania with his 7-year-old daughter, Rhiya.

Whenever someone would ask his mother, Pat Morgan of Fairbanks, how Doyle was doing, she'd show them the photo of her son and granddaughter in the tree.

Many people found out firsthand how Doyle was coping with a prosthetic lower leg at a welcome home ceremony Tuesday.

Besides veterans, Boy Scouts, active-duty military members and civic leaders, the crowd of about 70 people was littered with familiar faces from Doyle's past.

For Doyle, who was awarded a Bronze Star on July 31, it was a little bit overwhelming.

"It was easier at Walter Reed (Army Medical Center) when a lot of people came into the room because they went and saw everybody and you weren't singled out," he said.

Much to his mother's surprise, Doyle joined the Army in 1996 to see a bit of the world, serve his country and follow in his father's footsteps. His father, Grant Doyle Jr., is a Vietnam veteran.

Doyle and other Russian linguists on April 27 were in Tikrit intercepting and recording enemy conversations for Arabic linguists to translate. Doyle climbed a wall to tie off rope for a shelter from the sun. A concrete block fell on Doyle's left foot and ankle, tearing the skin open, crushing bones in his ankle and breaking both his tibia and fibula.

He was at the Army hospital this summer undergoing rehabilitation with others who had lost limbs during the conflict in Iraq. While there, he met another 31-year-old Army corporal from Fairbanks, Ricky Nelson, who had been shot in the knee during an ambush May 5 in Baghdad. Nelson eventually lost his right leg above the knee. The two have kept in touch since their release.

The two are among about 2,300 military service members who have been injured since the war in Iraq began March 19. Doyle is one of about 370 injured in circumstances that were not hostile.

As of midday Saturday Alaska time, 486 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq, according to the Defense Department. Of those, 333 died as a result of hostile action and 153 died of non-hostile causes, the department said.

Doyle is getting medically retired from the Army.

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