You lose limbs for your fellow American’s freedom and when you show up to your child’s soccer game, your child is taunted for having a disfigured parent.
Yes, the world is that cruel, but veteran plastic surgeon Timothy Miller is making it a bit kinder. In his new book, The Surgical Reconstruction of War Operation Mend, Miller accounts the agonizing tales of 11 soldiers, who survived horrific facial disfigures due directly to war in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“These are dads who couldn’t take their kids to a soccer game, who couldn’t go to the market without having an awful lot of people looking at them,” said Miller in a New York Daily News report.
The first surgery Miller ever performed was on a badly burned Marine. After humanitarians Ron and Madie Katz were witness to the severe scarring all over the soldier in 2006, they contacted the University of Los Angeles Medical Center (UCLA) and offered funding for veterans in need of reconstructive surgery and that was when Miller was asked to perform the surgery gratis. His answer was “How about tomorrow?” Since then, the veteran himself has performed 230 surgeries.
From that initial surgery grew UCLA Operation Mend, based out of UCLA. Along with Miller, some of the nation’s top plastic surgeons perform charity surgery for soldiers who have suffered from severe facial injuries like Marine Corporal Diane Cardile. Though she was awarded a Purple Heart for her heroic service in 2005, Cardile came home with more than just a medal.
Sustaining “serious burns around her mouth and her hands,” according to UCLA Operation Mend, the veteran was scarred for life after being hit by a suicide car bomb in a Humvee while driving a group of fellow soldiers back to Camp Fallujah. But the non-profit performed surgery so the soldier appeared less disfigured.
Like Cardile, Marine Staff Sgt. Octavio Sanchez was “doused in fuel becoming a human fireball when he crawled out of the molten steel and tried to return fire to nearby snipers,” reported the Daily News. Though Sanchez was able to see through stranger’s stares and not take the glances personally, his children could not handle the public scrutiny. “These are important stories to tell,” said Miller, adding “Octavio told me the surgery took the stares off him.”
By performing reconstructive surgery on Sanchez and other soldiers and telling the transformative tales in his book, Miller is making a marked difference that isn’t just physical. According to the doctor, the soldiers’ physical state dominates their mental and emotional well-being. And Sanchez agrees. “My new nose is a confidence booster and helped with what my kids were going through,” he said.
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