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Help for veterans back home - KOAM TV 7

Help for veterans back home

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JOPLIN, MISSOURI -

Artie Armstrong of Joplin was one year from his retirement from the U.S. Army in June of 1968 when he lost his leg in an explosion in Vietnam. Shrapnel was embedded all throughout his leg, side and stomach.

His first surgery took place in Vietnam, but many more surgeries would took place after that. Armstrong recalls a conversation with a doctor early on.

"I asked him a question, I said ‘above the knee or below the knee?," Armstrong said.

Armstrong then underwent several surgeries before receiving a prosthetic leg with a computerized knee.

“It was hard convincing the Veterans Administration of all this,” Armstrong said, gesturing to his American flag-clad prosthetic piece.

For amputees like Armstrong, local prosthetic group ‘Progressive Prosthetics and Orthotics’ offer an amputee support group so no one has to go through the emotions alone. Angela Huckaby of Progressive facilitates the group.

“So with Artie, he is an older gentleman so he's not the typical above knee amputee. I think a lot of that has to do with his personal resolve, his determination and he's got a really great attitude," Huckaby said.

Upon returning from combat, Armstrong had a lot of support from his wife, Esther, and family. Not all veterans returning home have a support system similar to Armstrong’s. Nonprofit group ‘Military Pathways’ hopes to bridge that gap.

"It's a support group for when they get back for the ones having just a little bit of issue adjusting back to everyday life. The goal is to try and keep them off of prescription medication," volunteer Matt Harris said.

Harris’ father was diagnosed with a rare lymphoma stemming from materials he was exposed to while in combat in Vietnam. Only eight people have been diagnosed with the same condition.

"We just come out here and try to help them the best we can, and we appreciate every one of them," Harris said.

Harris and other volunteers collect donations outside Walmart, offering hellos and accepting many ‘thank yous’. Harris heard Artie's story and commended his positive attitude, as most do. 

"I'll be real honest with you, as honest as I can be, if they could give me back my original leg, I'd be glad to give them this. But you have to learn to live with what you have," Armstrong said.

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