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Defending Those Who Defend Us – Arthritis in the Military

Jumping out of an airplane can be stressful to the body. Add more than 50 pounds of gear and the effect on your joints can be devastating.

This is the case for Nicholas Steen. As an airborne infantryman in the Army, he regularly jumped out of planes, parachuting to earth while carrying his normal military gear along with a 30-pound gun and 600 rounds of ammunition.

For Steen, jumping was the easy part. The landing? Well, that’s a different story.

As a result of his service in the U.S. Military and the related stress and injuries to his body, Steen, like many other veterans, developed arthritis and will now battle increasing pain and disability for the rest of his life.
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Arthritis in the Military

Let’s Conquer the Silent Enemy of Our Armed Forces

Arthritis is no stranger to the men and women who serve our country. In fact, American veterans and service members are disproportionately affected by the disease, which impacts one in three U.S. military personnel compared to one in five civilians.

On Feb. 10, in a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill, representatives of the Arthritis Foundation, along with the American College of Rheumatology, veterans organizations and service members, put a spotlight on arthritis in the military, calling the disease a “silent enemy” that threatens our nation through the disability it causes and the fortune it costs U.S. taxpayers in health care expenses.
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On the Front Lines Against Arthritis

Arthritis is an occupational hazard in the military. Studies show that 1 in 4 servicemen and women has some form of arthritis; it’s the second leading cause of medical discharge from the Army. Worse, many soldiers are young when they receive injuries that lead to osteoarthritis. That means more years of pain, disability and limitations; veterans often need costly, lifelong care for this progressively degenerative disease.

Sgt. Nicholas Steen is a living example. Now 38 and working in the private sector, he joined the Army right out of high school in 1994. By the time he was honorably discharged four years later, he had acquired leadership and lifesaving skills – and arthritis.

As an airborne infantryman in the 2nd Ranger Battalion, Steen was a member of the elite special operations forces. “My primary job in the Army was that of a heavy machine gunner, which meant I was either carrying a 30-pound gun or approximately 600 rounds of ammunition that often weighed over 50 pounds in addition to the normal load. As you can imagine, jumping out of airplanes with this type of weight often made me turn into an anchor as I crashed to the ground,” Steen says. He also sustained injuries, including a broken collarbone and a shattered ankle.
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