New Prosthetics Keep Amputee Soldiers on Active Duty

Technology advances--and strong willpower--have allowed some injured soldiers to return to battle.

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"There's a lot of controversy that his prosthetics might be so advanced that he has an advantage over a person's natural limbs," he says. But in a battlefield setting, there's still a long way to go, Fergason and Blanck say.

"I know the question is often, 'How close are we to true bionic or having artificial limbs that are more versatile than natural ones?'" Fergason says. "Frankly, we're not that close. You're not going to see anyone decide, 'Boy, I think I'd like to get a bionic leg because they're so fantastic.'

"We love to read about the super soldier, but that's not the case right now. Amputation is so complex in what it does to your body that it's a very long recovery," he adds. "I think the aspect of a super soldier is a long way off."

So for now, soldiers have to get by with existing prosthetics and try to perform as well as they did before the injury—which raises the question of whether it is fair to ask someone who has already given an arm or a leg for his or her country to keep fighting. Col. GI Wilson, a Marine Corps Iraq veteran, says that not only is it fair, it'd be unconscionable to keep these soldiers out of duty.

"Letting an amputee who can perform to standard serve makes more sense than asking them to be a victim and sent home," he says. "The amputees who want to serve want a paycheck, not a government disability check."

Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at jkoebler@usnews.com

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