May 27, 2012
For decades, a soldier’s lost limb meant a life confined to a wheelchair or crutches, and at the very least a discharge from active service. But an increasing number of injuries in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, while horrific, have led by necessity to advancements in prosthetics technology. In fact, some amputee service members have been able to remain on active duty, thanks to the experience earned by their doctors.
According to the Army, at least 167 soldiers who have had a major limb amputation (complete loss of an arm, leg, hand, or foot) have remained on active duty since the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, with some returning to battle. Many others have returned overseas to work in support roles behind the lines.
“When we have someone we know wants to return, their rehab is geared that way,” says John Fergason, chief of prosthetics at the Army Center for the Intrepid at Fort Sam in Houston, Texas.