Members of the military who sacrifice a limb in the line of duty should not necessarily be discharged from the service. We are gratified that the Pentagon has decided to put more amputees back on active duty.
The U.S. military has treated nearly 600 service members who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan after losing an arm, leg, hand or foot. So far, 31 have returned to active duty, some of them to combat, and no one who has asked to remain has been discharged.
This is an about-face for the military. In the past, a soldier who lost a limb almost automatically received a discharge, a disability check and an appointment with the Veterans Administration. Under a new policy, the military has been retaining amputees, treating them in rehabilitation programs and offering to help them return to active duty if they choose.
While that obviously is not possible in every case, it is welcome news for many who remain ambulatory and who want to continue a career in the military. The ability of amputees to return to service also is testimony to better prosthetics and treatment. Thanks to modern medicine, they have a better chance of regaining mobility and continuing to serve, not only behind a desk but also in the field.
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We think the military owes amputees the chance to show that they can do much the same quality work they did before they were injured. And, of course, it makes sense to try to retain personnel who already have gone through costly training and have proven themselves in combat.
As one officer put it, the military has changed to the extent that it realizes the importance of all its personnel and what they can contribute. If amputees believe they still can make that contribution, they should have the opportunity to try.
Members of the military who lost limbs in combat are being returned to active duty.