Help soldiers heal the wounds of war by supporting Operation Mend’s groundbreaking charitable surgeries at UCLA.
“I want to be able to smile again.”
That was Army Sgt. Jason March’s request for his doctors at UCLA Operation Mend. In 2006, while leading a platoon near Fallujah, Iraq, March was hit by a sniper’s bullet in the back of the head near his right ear. His cheekbone and jawbone shattered, March underwent seven operations over a two-year period at UCLA. It was all worth it, though: Today, he can smile on both sides of his face.
“They make me feel young again,” March says of his Operation Mend team. “They give me [the feeling] that, ‘Hey, nothing’s wrong with you. You can do whatever you want to do.’ ”
UCLA Operation Mend is a groundbreaking program that provides military personnel with severe facial and other medical injuries access to the nation’s top plastic and reconstructive surgeons. Established in 2007 by philanthropist Ronald A. Katz and his wife, Maddie, the program is a partnership with UCLA Health, the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Operation Mend began with facial reconstruction but has since expanded to encompass healing of the entire body, mind and spirit. Soldiers may receive the whole package, including mental-health support (for them and their families); orthopedic reconstruction for severely damaged limbs; urologic treatment; and ear, nose and throat care. Operation Mend’s Buddy Programs are designed to engage patients and their families in activities beyond UCLA’s clinic and hotel walls.
All services are provided free of charge to military men and women. Donations to the program help pay for such expenses as the surgeries themselves, patient evaluations, transportation and housing for the patients and their families, care coordination and a multitude of additional patient services. As of November 2015, 135 patients from all branches of the military had participated in UCLA Operation Mend, which is funded almost entirely by private donations.
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