By Michelle Gordon, MCOE Public AffairsNovember 25, 2009
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Ten months into his deployment with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Peter Sprenger lost an eye when an improvised explosive device detonated near the forward operating base in Tal Afar, Iraq.
But he didn't lose his focus as an infantryman.
"I was a little irritated that I lost my eye," he said, "but I didn't want to quit."
During his rehabilitation, Sprenger wanted to remain in the Army, but he didn't want a desk job, so he contacted his former 101st commander, now the U.S. Central Command commander Gen. David Petraeus for assistance.
"Ordinarily such an injury would have resulted in a medical retirement," Petraeus said. "However, (then) Corporal Sprenger was no ordinary Soldier."
The most seriously wounded Soldier during the attack on his forward operating base, Petraeus said he tracked Sprenger's progress.
"He's taught me about sure determination, perseverance and strength in the way of diversity," Petraeus said. "The way he's responded has been truly inspirational."
After earning the Ranger tab in 2005, Sprenger again deployed to Iraq with the 101st for a second time. When the unit redeployed to Kentucky, he left the Army to complete his college degree.
But Sprenger missed the Army, Petraeus said.
"It was those with whom he used to serve and the important missions they all performed together and what individuals like him would term 'the brotherhood of the close fight,'" he said.
The four-star general told Sprenger's story to 152 newly commissioned officers who graduated from Officer Candidate School, Nov. 19.
Sprenger was one of them.
"Over the past 12 weeks, you've shown the ability to lead and to follow and displayed physical and mental toughness and you've been team players as well as team builders," Petraeus said.
"Of course, this is not the first time you have displayed such special qualities. After all, several of you are combat veterans and already proven your ability to lead Soldiers in challenging missions, under tough conditions. Each of you has your own story, and while your own personal story may not rival that of second lieutenant Sprenger, few do, the route you followed to earn your commission demonstrates your commitment to excellence, determination, leadership ability, a commendable work ethic, intelligence and sheer resolve. None of you is proud to be merely average."
Following the ceremony, Sprenger's father and Petraeus pinned the second lieutenant bars on the new officer.
His next assignment is again with the 101st Airborne Division, where a third combat deployment is in his future.
It's been six years since he lost his eye, but Sprenger said to judge him on his abilities, not his disabilities.
"I don't really like people calling it a disability because I think with training, and training yourself, I know I can do things just as well as a lot of the other guys I work with, and honestly, losing one eye is only 30 degrees of your vision. So it's not that bad really," he said.