Modern prosthetics put Soldiers back on the battlefield

Army Col. Todd R. Wood, commander of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, administers the oath of re-enlistment to Army Staff Sgt. Brian Beem, left, then a cavalry scout assigned to the 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, at Forward Operating Base Frontenac, Afghanistan, Nov. 9, 2011. Beem is a single-leg amputee who was able to continue to serve despite his injury. He lost his leg after an improvised explosive device detonated during his 2006 deployment to Iraq. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Duval (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

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ARLINGTON, Va. -- Thanks to advances in modern medicine and the availability of sturdier prosthetics, Soldiers who are able to re-deploy after amputation have a number of possible options for continued military service.

Army Staff Sgt. Brian Beem lost his leg in 2006 to an improvised explosive device in Iraq. "I thought my career was over," he said.

Beem credits his experiences at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, with helping him assess and eventually find options for returning to duty.

'I WAS FEELING PRETTY CONFIDENT'

"It took me about a year to get up to speed with [physical training], and I was feeling pretty confident," he said. Within a short time, Beem was ready to deploy to Afghanistan with his unit. Although he was no longer on patrol as he was in previous deployments, he still played a vital role in battle staff operations.

"It was really gratifying to be able to deploy," he said. "It's possible, but it's not easy. The process is there for those who have the perseverance."

Some of those processes include passing the Physical Evaluation Board, which determines if a Soldier with a prosthesis is still fit to serve. The Continuation on Active Duty/Continuation on Active Reserve program also provides options for some wounded, ill and injured Soldiers who can prove they are still physically able to serve.

"I was able to continue on and reach retirement," Beem said.

Deployments "are really what the Army is all about," he said. "Even the training you do at home. It all culminates with deploying. And for combat arms folks, if you don't have deployments, you can't be competitive [for promotion]."

Beem acknowledges that every case is different. For some, he said, the will to serve alone is not enough to overcome the severity of their injury. But for those who are able, Beem said, it is very rewarding to continue to serve with their comrades.

"I didn't join the Army to sit around and have a comfortable lifestyle. I joined the Army because I knew it would be hard work, and it is," Beem said. "But when you're done, you can look back and say, 'Wow, look at everything I did.'"

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