‘It’s Like Magic:’ Army Veterans Receive Revolutionary Prosthetic Arms

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Independence Day may have a different meaning for a couple of Army veterans this year.

Army veterans Fred Downs and Artie McAuley both lost their left arms more than 40 years ago and are thrilled to be doing tasks in the kitchen again, thanks to their new LUKE prosthetic arms.

“Stirring with this, I’m cutting with that, dicing,” said Downs, whose left arm was amputated below the elbow after he was injured in during the Vietnam War. “It’s the fun part of being able to use two hands to get all the vegetables prepared, and the meat prepared, and start the grill, and hold plates.”

LUKE is an acronym for Life Under Kinetic Evolution, but it’s also a nod to Luke Skywalker, who received a bionic hand after losing his during a lightsaber battle in “Star Wars.”

Thin, clear rubber covers the metal and plastic fingers which bend, flex and have at least four different grips. The wrist can turn and the shoulder also rotates. Each motion is controlled with their feet, which have tiny wireless transmitters sending signals to the LUKE.

The prosthetic limbs provide “unprecedented, near-natural arm and hand motion,” according to a DARPA press release. “The LUKE system has a fully functional, articulated shoulder joint, which offers unprecedented mobility and quality of life even for individuals with total arm loss.”

For 45 years, McAuley said he couldn’t make a touchdown motion with both arms, and now it’s one of the many things he said he loves being able to do.

During a demonstration Friday at the VA New York Harbor Health Care System in Manhattan, Downs used his new LUKE prosthetic thumb and index finger to carefully peeled a banana.

“These may seem like very simple, routine things but to someone who can’t do it, to be able to be given this function it’s like magic,” said Downs.

Downs and McAuley tested out the LUKE prosthetic arms with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin presented each with their own LUKE arms and said it’s fitting that 4th of July is coming up.

“This is really Independence Day for our veterans,” Shulkin said.

More From CBS New York

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
Get Our Morning Briefs
Bloomberg WCBS Tri-State Business Index

Watch & Listen LIVE