Healing, Hope, and Restoration For Our Courageous Troops Updated: June 17, 2018, originally published June 17, 2008
"From the start, I knew I'd get better. -- I always knew that it was a part of God's plan. God's been very faithful to me even though I don't deserve it." -- U.S. Marine Cpl. Aaron P. Mankin
Editor's Note: Marie Jon wrote this column ten years ago today. I received a request to update the links in the Notes field and have done so. Also deleted links that no longer work. It seemed an appropriate piece to re-publish with the updated links on the ten year anniversary of it's original publication.
Physicians and nurses are a part of the surgical teams that bring our troops hope and healing. They are proud to serve awesomely brave men and women of America's armed services who fight the war against terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. With skilled, trained hands they help our wounded warriors heal both physically and emotionally. Dedicated medical teams with heart and soul provide our troops a faster return to a well and productive life. They help improve the quality of life of our injured service men and women.
The Department of Defense created the federally-funded Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM.) Many of the doctors are board-certified plastic surgeons by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). They hold to the very highest of standards in their field.
The ASPS was established in 1931. It is the largest plastic surgery specialty organization in the world. To qualify for membership, a physician must have at least six years of surgical training, including three years in plastic surgery. Other specialties participating in AFIRM include general surgery, orthopedic, otolaryngology, and dermatology. There are special departments that offer therapy and the latest in prosthetics. The medical staff and therapists inspire their patients. In return, the patients provide an emotional uplift to the care providers. Our recuperating troops are amazing and courageous people with unquestionably remarkable fortitude and strength.
"The war has inspired great advances in plastic surgery to correct the awful injuries that are inflicted on its participants. In fact, it was the war to end all wars — World War I that challenged plastic surgeons to achieve groundbreaking advances in wound repair and reconstruction. With this latest conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, plastic surgery, once again, is integral to saving and restoring soldiers' lives." — Dr. Richard D'Amico, ASPS board-certified plastic surgeon.
A generous grant of $85 million has been awarded to help provide the best care for our American heroes. AFIRM is directed and funded by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command, with additional funding from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, the National Institutes of Health, and the Veterans Administration. Statistics come from the Department of Defense indicate that approximately 29,800 troops had been wounded in action in the Iraq war, and another 1,927 in Afghanistan operations this year.
All the medical procedures that are used on our troops are subsequently adapted to meet the needs of the general public, including reconstructive plastic surgery techniques. Burn and trauma patients will benefit from the latest innovations brought to light through the need to heal the wounded combat service people.
UCLA Medical Center has established a new program, Operation Mend. The very first participant in Operation Mend is U.S. Marine Cpl. Aaron P. Mankin. Aaron has a way to go before he is fully restored, being still in need of a series of facial reconstructive surgeries. He was injured in Iraq in May of 2005 when an explosive device burned more than 25% of his body, including severe damage to his face. Forty-eight hours elapsed after the explosion before help and hope arrived.
It has been no walk in the park for Marine Cpl. Aaron P. Mankin. He has undergone two-and-a-half years of multiple surgeries, including many skin grafts. May God bless the outstanding medical team led by Timothy Miller, chief of plastic surgery at UCLA Medical Center. It is Dr. Miller's trained hands that began the process of reconstructing Aaron's face.
Excepts from The Morning News Front: Injured Marine Returns for the Holidays — 2005
"ROGERS — He watched as the helicopter's rotors circled above him. Told to keep his eyes open, Aaron Mankin gazed up as he lay on a cot in the bottom rack of a military helicopter in a place far from his Rogers home.
"He remembers raising his left hand, staring at the blister, noting the skin had peeled back. Mankin knew he'd been burned and he knew he was in pain, but didn't comprehend the severity of his wounds as he noticed the beauty of the puffy white clouds against a bright blue sky above the Iraqi desert on May 11.
"U.S. Marine Cpl. Aaron P. Mankin, a 2000 graduate of Rogers High School, was riding atop the military transport vehicle when the 26-ton vehicle hit a mine that day. It was tossed straight up and slammed down on the hard sand road with its load of Marines, ammunition and other supplies.
"Mankin remembers falling in through the hatch, watching as debris crashed around him, flames flared and the hatch closed above. Emergency equipment in the vehicle apparently malfunctioned. Fire control devices didn't go off and a rear ramp wouldn't open. Marines were able to open a side door, but by then the ammunition had started to cook and began to go off.
"Amid the chaos, Mankin found his way out. He recalled those first-grade lessons of 'stop, drop and roll,' and the 23-year-old rolled and rolled in the sand, stopping several times to see if he was still on fire. When he couldn't roll anymore, his fellow Marines came to his rescue. He heard someone yell, 'Put him out, put him out.'
"Aaron Mankin supports the effort in Iraq and is proud of the freedom that the United States has helped bring to the Iraqi people, despite his severe injuries and his fear for the safety of his fiancé."
Aaron and his wife, Marine Lance Cpl. Diana Mankin, and their daughter, Maddie, who is just eight months old, have taken up residency at UCLA Tiverton House while Aaron undergoes surgery. The Katz Family Foundation is paying all non-covered costs, such as travel and housing during treatment.Other soldiers are being scheduled as part of Operation Mend. UCLA is but one of the world-class hospitals that are lending their extraordinary expertise in plastic reconstructive surgery to our magnificent troops.
Americans must come to a place called "Reality." We need to understand that the United States has no other choice but to continue fighting a war we did not ask for. The enemy came to our homeland long before 9/11. Radical Islam has been at war with America for decades, yet we were blindsided by their hatred for us due to our leaders' shortsightedness and subversive influences from within. We are despised because, according to Jihadists, their prophet Mohammad designates non-believers as infidels who are worthy of brutality and death.
We are indeed at war, and it is time to stop second-guessing our president. America took the appropriate stand.
Do not allow the biased media to depress you with their demagoguery. We've all heard the same vitriolic rhetoric ad nauseam. The Democrats are invested in retreat and defeat. We who believe in winning the war in Iraq and stabilizing the Middle East feel confident that John McCain can achieve that goal.
Be proud that you're an American. Our accomplishments in Iraq are honorable and commendable. The president's first job is to protect our country. George Bush acted wisely. We liberated millions of innocent people. There are no more rape rooms in Iraq. Women and children are safer than ever before. Saddam is dead and al-Qaeda has been driven back by Iraq's troops and the Iraqi people. Like the land of Israel, the people of Iraq deserve peace.
Our servicemen and women will come home after the work we have begun is finished. Our troops will begin to stand down when Afghani and Iraqi troops are able to take care of their newly-formed democracies. Until then, it is their duty to take care of our nation via providing safety in the Middle East. If anyone tells you differently, they are either naïve or treasonous. We are living in a dangerous time and cannot afford to let down our guard again.
Most Americans are ill-informed of the potential attacks that have been thwarted by our Homeland Security intelligence gathering --
nineteen planned terrorist attacks against America since that infamous day of September 11, 2001. You can thank this administration for keeping America safe. That will not be the case if the Islamic sympathizer Barack Obama becomes president.
If you have any doubts that what our troops have endured for our freedom has been worthwhile, just look into the eyes of Marine Cpl. Aaron P. Mankin (right) and the thousands of others who joined the Armed Services to protect America. We have more than sufficient justification to feel admiration and love for them and our country. One phenomenal reason to puff up your chest with pride is Aaron Mankin.
In addition to having written for WEBCommentary, Marie's writings have appeared on many sites, including The New Media Journal, ChronWatch, and Commonconservative, to name a few. Marie is no longer writing online commentary.
Marie's refreshing and spirited point of view is reflected in her writings, genuine and spiritual opinions regarding God and his teachings. Marie is a practicing Christian, a nurse, a student of the Bible, and a patriot. Many of Marie's articles are a reflection of her great admiration for those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is an advocate for the troops, as well as the Blue and Gold Star Mothers of America, and their families. Marie has appeared as a guest with political talk show host Bruce Elliott on WBAL-1090 AM.