Former Marine helps fellow veterans with hi-tech prosthetics

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CLEVELAND - It has always been precise work.

Years ago, when someone needed a prosthetic, they had to have their limb encased in plaster to get a mold made.

Now, laser measurements are taken, and a computer lathe turns a plastic cylinder from a picture into a mold for carbon fiber, which will eventually turn into a flexible and strong prosthetic that should fit very well.

The craftsmanship needed to make a prosthetic leg is not lost on former marine Matt Fleming. He says he was always good at making things from working on his buddy's party buses to something that's very personal.

You see Matt wears what he makes.

Matt says he survived combat in Iraq ten years ago to come home and lose his leg in a motorcycle crash near Youngstown. But he says he’s always tried to make the best of it.

He even got a special cover for his prosthetic to make it look like the armor from a Star Wars storm trooper.

“I'm a big Star Wars fan so I had a new cover built for my leg.”  Matt said.  “The rest of the uniform is expensive but I want one."

Matt says he lost his limb, not his sense of humor, and that helps him when he counsels new amputees at the Cleveland VA.

The work he does here is for veterans like him, so they can get on with their lives.

“It’s good. I like seeing once they see they can do it you can see it click they're like I’m good, and I’m like I know."

When Matt got his first prosthetic leg  from the VA ten years ago, he said walking backwards was difficult for him but now the legs have microprocessors and gyroscopes inside so even walking on an uneven surface is easier.

But it's not just about technology. For the thousands of young veterans like Matt, living with amputations the adjustments they've had to make in life are very real. And a good physical fit helps to make mental adjustments.

Matt says he just wants to help people get past their loss and think about what they can gain. “I was sitting in a hospital bed in Youngstown and at one point I thought, 'What am I going to do?' I know that feeling. You just got to conquer that and rise above it and push forward.”

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