Paralyzed veteran shows off wearable exoskeleton that helps him walk

    Milwaukee VA Medical Center gives new hope to paralyzed veterans and provides them with a wearable exoskeleton robot. (WLUK/Amber Luckett)

    GREEN BAY, Wis. (WLUK) -- Thanks to the advancement of technology, a veteran who's been paralyzed for nearly three decades is getting the chance to walk again.

    With every step that Dean Juntunen takes, he gets a little closer to experiencing life the way it used to be.

    "I was an ICBM missile launch officer in the Air Force and that's when I had my accident," said Juntunen. "I was removing a rope swing from a tree and the branch broke off, I dropped about 30 feet and broke five vertebrae and crushed my spine in two spots," he explained.

    Juntunen has lived nearly 30 years as a paraplegic, but said that hasn't stopped him from helping others and doing what he loves.

    "Ninety-one marathons, paddling all the Lake Superior coastline in my kayak. I'm also involved in community a lot," he said.

    But that's just the beginning of what Juntunen said he aspires to do, and is hoping his new wearable exoskeleton robot will allow him to do even more.

    "I decided to give it a try. The VA was doing a research project and asked if I wanted to be a guinea pig," he said. "It's been fun. I like it more than I thought I would."

    Zach Hodgson, a Trainer for the Milwaukee Veteran Affairs Center, says the study is being ran nationally and has already expanded to 15 different locations.

    "The idea behind the study is that they go through a screening phase where they go through a lot of testing and measures, " Hodgson explained. "Then the participant takes this home for four months and the idea is to see how much people are using these at home," he said.

    Juntunen said he plans to incorporate his robot into his daily routine and use it for exercise opportunities. He also expressed excitement about the future and what it has to offer.

    According to the Paralyzed Veterans Of America, there are more than 100,000 veterans living in the United States.

    If you know a veteran that my benefit from this study click here.

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