As the nation’s largest Veterans Day parade kicked off in New York City on the morning of Nov. 11, 2023, among the 20,000 participants was a contingent of about 100 people representing Operation Mend, the partnership between UCLA Health and the U.S. military dedicated to healing physical and psychological wounds of war.
Among the marchers making their way up Fifth Avenue, cheered on by the crowd, were UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, leaders from UCLA Health and Operation Mend health care professionals, patients and their families, and supporters.
The innovative program, launched in 2007, brought together UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and other stakeholders to provide free medical, surgical and psychological treatment to post-9/11 veterans and service members injured in the line of duty.
To date, Operation Mend has been funded by more than 5,000 donors who have contributed approximately $75 million.
Prior to the parade, on Nov. 9, red roses, white hypericum and blue hydrangeas covered the tables at the James West Alumni Center as the campus honored those who’ve served with a celebratory luncheon.
UCLA’s Veteran Resource Center hosted the event for military students and veterans, staff and alumni.
Veterans of the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam came from as far away as Michigan, joining Chancellor Block and Tony De Francesco, executive director of veterans affairs relations and programs for UCLA.
And on Nov. 11, at the Rose Bowl, where the Bruins took on Arizona State University, the Veterans Resource Center hosted a tailgate event for 360 student veterans, alumni and friends. About 30 veterans were honored in an on-field tribute during the first half of the game.