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I'm working on a character for my story. He is an active-duty US Army Ranger performing combat missions. I would like him to have had a previous injury suffered in the line of duty in which foreign objects entered his body and were not removed during treatment of the injury.

Obviously, once the initial injury had healed, these foreign bodies would have to be non-life-threatening, and not cause significant impairment.

However, what I don't know is what sort of injury might result in retained foreign bodies, that would not result in the soldier being reassigned or being medically discharged.

So my question is: What previous injuries might a modern-day US special forces soldier have suffered during combat that would result in retained foreign objects that would allow them to continue serving as a special forces soldier after recovery from the injury? Answers should include the type of object, approximate location, reason for non-removal and why it has not resulted in loss of capabilities. Time to heal from the injury in question would also be useful.

The foreign object(s) should (each) be big enough to see easily with the naked eye if they had been able to be removed.

Preference will be given to answers detailing initially more serious injuries requiring surgery and longer recovery times over minor injuries that would have short recovery times and minimal medical intervention. i.e. the worse the injury, the better... as long as the soldier can still be an active-duty US Ranger and serve in combat operations. It would be even better if the soldier could have continued to fight immediately after receiving the injury and receiving basic first aid.

'None' is an acceptable answer if any foreign objects retained after an injury would result in the soldier being reassigned from an active-duty combat role in a US special forces unit.

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I'm pretty sure that multiple Soldiers who have received shrapnel/fragmentation wounds that are either unknown or too difficult to remove have continued to serve.

I'm unable to find the source, as it may have been in a Podcast discussion - but I'm fairly certain either Marcus Luttrell or Dan Crenshaw or the SEAL that got shot in the head talked about going back into service after their major injuries and they still have metal fragments in their body.

Typically what happens is the foreign body (the Shrapnel) enters the body, the body cocoons it in a cyst-type sack, and that sack is 'attached' to something vital (like an artery) - and since the sack is 'secure' inside the body, it's safer to leave it in the short-term.

There is ongoing discussion though about things like long-term lead poisoning and other metal poisoning from retaining shrapnel inside the body as it breaks down.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yeah there's gotta be medical docs that stipulate "return to service" precisely but all I can find is enlistment restrictions. There's a long list of things you can't have during enlistment but I'm pretty sure once you're in and trained, they would rather fix you than replace you. Just can't find a thing that actually says this. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 22:50
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Shrapnel.

The great composer Shostakovich had shrapnel lodged in his brain long-term from a war injury caused by an exploding shell in the Great Patriotic War Against Fascism.

Shostakovich's case suggests one reason why it would not be removed: the patient didn't want it removed because it was working out well for him. That may or may not fit your story. There are surgical reasons why a surgeon would opt not to intervene: brain surgery is a risky thing never undertaken lightly.

initially more serious injuries requiring surgery and longer recovery times

There was a shower of shrapnel. Some was near the surface and was removed by surgery, but one/a few pieces lodged more deeply.

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    $\begingroup$ However, would a US Ranger be able to continue serving as a combat soldier with such an injury today? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 10:42
  • $\begingroup$ Also the linked article suggests that Shostakovitch's injury may be apocryphal. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 10:46
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Damn near anything, within reason.

I'm just a regular 0311, but I've been attached to Marsoc and various Recon elements on a few occasions for various reasons. I once met a Recon SSgt who had a prosthetic left leg. I had a Platoon sgt with a less dramatic "iron man syndrome."Having several chunks of shrapnel from an IED lodged in his ribcage from his second deployment. When you are injured, you go through recovery and physical therapy plans followed by physical reconditioning. The biggest limiting factor in a soldier/sailor/marine going back to active duty is their ability to get back to the physical fitness standards of their branch/MOS.

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    $\begingroup$ Obligatory "Oo-Rah Devil Dog" (Not a Marine, just a military enthusiast) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 22:03

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