Meet Our Warriors

Listed below are a few of our wounded warriors and their stories.

Marine Corporal Oyoana Allende

Oyoana Allende

Marine Corporal Oyoana Allende was injured in 2005 when a suicide bomber rammed his car wired with explosives into her Marine convoy truck. Fourteen female Marines were riding in the bed of the truck at the time, being dropped off at various military checkpoints where they helped search Iraqi women for weapons and explosives. Three female Marines were killed in the incident, plus the driver of her vehicle, the gunner and a rescuer. She sustained extensive burns to her face, hands and knees. Despite the events of this tragedy, Oyoana keeps a smile on her face and makes the world around her glow.

Army Captain James Barclay

James Barclay

CPT Barclay is married and father of 3 children. In 2006 while serving as an Infantry platoon leader for 10th Mountain Division, CPT Barclay was wounded in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb. Three soldiers died that day, CPT Barclay and his driver were the only soldiers who survived. 47% of his body was burned, 35% being 3rd degree burns. The enormous amount of scarring limited his ability to fully open his mouth and disfigured his face and hands. The surgeries he has undergone at UCLA have restored much of his mobility and function and reduced the scarring tremendously on both his face and his hands.

Marine Corporal Michael Bitner

Michael Bitner

Corporal Bitner came to Operation Mend in 2014. He was injured in Afghanistan when his vehicle hit an IED. The explosion caused bleeding in the cerebellum, which caused cranial nerve damage, paralysis to the right side of his face and deafness in the right ear. The explosion also caused injuries to the spine, left arm and right knee from which he experienced chronic pain. He hopes to restore symmetry to his face, eliminate some of the chronic pain especially in his back, and be able to better manage residual pain.

Navy Chief Petty Officer Robert Bruce

Robert Bruce

Navy Chief Petty Officer Robert Bruce was one of eight sailors injured in 2006 when a steam pipe ruptured aboard the Guam-based submarine tender USS Frank Cable. The steam line ruptured during a safety-valve check while the ship was docked at Guam's Apra Harbor sending hot steam into the fire room where Bruce was one of 14 sailors acting as technicians, standing watch or observing the safety check.

Marine Corporal Diane Cardile

Diane Cardile

Marine Corporal Diane Cardile was awarded a Purple Heart after she was injured in Iraq in 2005. Her Humvee that was filled with 13 other female Marines who were hit by a suicide car bomb while driving in a convoy back to Camp Fallujah. She sustained serious burns around her mouth and her hands.

Army Sergeant Michael Carrasquillo

Michael Carrasquillo

173rd Airborne Infantryman, Sgt Michael Carrasquillo was injured while conducting air assault raids in Afghanistan on his second combat tour.  Sgt Carrasquillo disregarded his own safety while exposing himself during a fire fight to rescue one of his injured soldiers. In doing so, Mike was shot multiple times in both arms and in the chest. While still wounded, Sgt Carrasquillo gathered his troops and returned fire before being blown 15 feet away by an explosion. The shrapnel from his blown up rifle then took off the middle finger off his right hand.

Marine Corporal Justin Crabbe

Justin Crabbe

Cpl Crabbe came to Operation Mend in 2014. He currently lives in California with his wife and two daughters. Justin sustained injuries in Afghanistan when he stepped on an IED. He lost both legs above the knee, multiple fingers on the left hand and thumb on the right hand. He hopes to decrease some of the severe pain that he experiences in his wrists due to arthritis and receive assistance with both hands to increase mobility.

Marine Staff Sergeant Ramie Cruz

Ramie Cruz

SSgt Cruz currently lives in California with his wife and four children. In 2005 he was injured on a parachute insertion. Due to a bad wind call and jumping at double speed, he injured his back. He also damaged two of the discs in his back.

Army Specialist Louis Dahlman

Louis Dahlman

SPC Louis Dahlman is currently living in Texas with his wife and daughter. Louis was deployed to Iraq for three months when he was injured by an EFP (roadside bomb) resulting in the loss of his lower mandible, including his bottom teeth. He has undergone several reconstructive surgeries and can now eat normally and enjoy a better quality of life.

Air Force Master Sergeant Israel Del Toro

Israel Del Toro

MSGT. Israel Del Toro is currently living in Colorado with his wife and son. He was severely injured while on tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2005. Originally his job was to call in air strikes, but that December, his Humvee hit a massive IED. Del Toro was burned over 80 percent of his body. Doctors gave Del Toro a 20 percent chance of survival. He has undergone over 100 surgeries since his accident. Israel's positive outlook on life continues to inspire everyone that has the pleasure of meeting him.

Army & Marine Staff Sergeant Dion Dorado

Dion Dorado

Marine and Army SSgt Dion Dorado currently lives California with his wife. During Dion’s 23 years of combined service, he ultimately endured two major injuries while on active duty. In 2005, he broke his right hand during hand to hand combat with an Iraqi and in 2013, when a Vehicle Borne Explosive Device hit his barracks, followed by a complex attack from the Talibans. Dion suffers from TBI, PTSD, along with injuries to his hand, shoulder, ankles, ear, wrist and both knees.

Army Specialist Francesca Duke

Francesca Duke

SPC. Francesca Duke is currently living in Texas, with her family. Her job as a Military Police Officer was to train and maintain an Iraqi Police station in Ramadi, Iraq. On August 21, 2006 the IP station she was assigned to was blown up by a VBIED carrying propane tanks and explosives. She was burned on her legs, arms, back, trunk, and face. She had her first surgery at UCLA the same year when she celebrated the birth of her beautiful daughter.

Sergeant First Class Christopher Edwards

Chris Edwards

SFC Edwards is retired and currently lives in Florida. He came to Operation Mend in 2008 after he was injured in an improvised explosive device blast where he sustained 3rd degree burns on more than 72% of his body. He lost all of his fingers on the left hand and underwent complete amputation of the right hand. He is currently in the process of moving forward with additional procedures at UCLA.

Army Staff Sergeant Michael J Fox

MJ Fox

Army Infantryman, SSG Michael J. Fox currently lives in Arizona with his wife and their son.

Marine Corporal James "Jimmy" Gentile

Jimmy Gentile

Cpl Gentile was shot during the Battle of Ramadi, Iraq on April 4, 2004. The bullet entered just below the right ear on the jawline and exited through the front of the face. His right external carotid artery was severed, he sustained multiple skull and mandible fractures, and he is blind in the right eye due to optic nerve damage. He currently lives in Missouri with his wife and children.

Army Staff Sergeant Shilo Harris

Shilo Harris

SSG Shilo Harris currently lives with his wife and five children in South Texas. On February 19, 2007, during his 2nd deployment to Iraq, Harris' Humvee hit an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) while on a patrol, killing three soldiers. Only Harris and the driver survived. After the blast, Harris was in a coma for 48 days. He suffered severe burns to 35% of his body, and lost both of his ears and several fingers.

Army Staff Sergeant Robert Henline

Robert Henline

SSG Henline is retired and living in Texas. He joined the military in 1989 after his high school graduation. He served in Operation Desert Storm and was on his third tour in Iraq when he was hit by an improvised explosive device and sustained burns on 38% of the body. SSG Henline was the only survivor of his five man team. His injuries left him with no use of the left arm and problems with both eyelids. Currently he travels throughout the country pursuing his dreams as comedian.

Marine Captain Derek Herrera

Derek Herrera

Marine Special Operations Capt. Derek Herrera currently lives in California with his wife and sons. While serving a tour in Afghanistan, Capt. Herrera sustained a Gunshot Wound to his left shoulder, which ultimately lodged in his spine leaving him paralyzed.

Army Specialist Jose Jauregui

Jose Jauregui

SPC Jauregui currently lives in California with his family. He was injured on April 16, 2005 when his Paladin was hit by a rocket. He was the only one to survive and sustained burns on 75% of his body. He lost his left hand and ears and lost some mobility in his neck and left elbow.

Marine Corporal Angelica Jimenez

Angelica Jimenez

Cpl Jimenez is currently retired from service and living in New Jersey. She was injured in Iraq and received burns to her face, hand, arm and shrapnel wound on her right thigh. She is currently seeking treatment for the scars on her right thigh. She has been an Operation Mend patient since 2014.

Army Staff Sergeant John Kaiser

John Kaiser

SSG Kaiser was injured when a 120mm mortar round landed in front of his Stryker. Metal fragments shattered his cheek bone, temple and skull behind the eyebrow. He had to have his right eye removed and sustained damage to his cheek and lower eyelid. He currently lives in Washington with his wife and three children.

Army Sergeant Matthew King

Matthew King

In 2005, while on a mission in Afghanistan, SGT. King was hit in his upper left thigh by a rocket-repelled grenade. The grenade blew a huge hole in his leg leaving him injured and scarred from his groin to his knee. After multiple surgeries and years of therapy, King is able to walk again, manages his pain, and enjoys outdoor activities.

Marine Sergeant Major John Kob

John Kob

SgtMaj Kob has been an Operation Mend patient since 2014. He is currently retired from the USMC and living in North Carolina with his wife. When he returned from his second deployment to Iraq, he began experiencing pain in the lower neck and upper back. He received treatment in 2012, which made the pain worse, and he now suffers from daily upper back spasms. He has developed insomnia and symptoms of depression as a result of the chronic pain, and he is hoping to discover the cause of the pain and spasms so that he can receive treatment to alleviate and manage the pain.

Navy Petty Officer 1 Michael Lammey

Michael Lammey

PO1 Lammey is currently living in San Antonio, Texas with his wife and three children. On Dec. 1, 2006 he was injured, along with 12 others, when the steam line on their ship, the USS Frank Cable, ruptured during a safety valve check while docked at Guam's Apra Harbor. Steam was released into the boiler's firebox and ignited the unburned vapors, injuring technicians and those observing the valve check. Michael Lammey, received Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals for "heroic" action in helping others to safety.

"I burned 56 percent of my body when a boiler exploded,” says Lammey, who came to UCLA Operation Mend in 2009. “I had burned both sides of my hands, and I couldn’t lift or turn my head from the scar tissue. Scar tissue contracts and contracts, so I had very little range of movement. Now I can hold my head up straight and I have more flexibility and mobility in my hands. It makes you feel like a man again. I have three daughters and a wife, and when you can start doing the stuff you used to do, it lets you get back into that role as a husband and as a father. I feel free from the constraints of the scar tissue. It’s amazing."

Marine Lance Corporal Chris Lowe

Chris Lowe

Marine Lance Corporal Chris Lowe was injured in Iraq when his vehicle was hit by several IEDs while he was riding as a machine gunner. As a result of his injuries, he experiences pain and difficulty with his knees, back and shoulders. He currently lives in Texas with his wife and son.

Marine Corporal Aaron P. Mankin

Aaron Mankin

Aaron became Operation Mend's first patient in August 2007. He currently lives in Arkansas and has two beautiful children. On May 11th, 2005, he was wounded when the 26-ton amphibious assault vehicle he was traveling in rolled over an improvised explosive device and was propelled 10 feet in the air.

Four Marines died in the attack and 11 others were injured. In addition to the damage sustained to his throat and lungs from smoke inhalation, Cpl. Mankin suffered intense burns on over 25 percent of his body. His ears, nose and mouth were essentially gone and he lost two fingers on his right hand.

Army Specialist Nicholas Mapson, Ret.

Nicholas Mapson

SPC Nicholas Mapson currently lives with his wife and two children in Illinois. On his 99th day of his deployment in Afghanistan, Nick's vehicle was struck by an IED while on patrol. Mapson trapped inside until his buddies pulled him out. He suffered third degree burns over 20% of his body, including on his face, arms and hands, vision and hearing loss. He didn't want to go outside, but after many surgeries, Nick regained his confidence and the ability to do a lot of the things he used to enjoy.

Army Sergeant Jason March

Jason March

SGT March is retired and living in Texas. On August 27, 2006, while leading a platoon near Fallujah, he was hit by a sniper's bullet in the back of the head near his right ear while standing in the gun turret of a Bradley. The right side of SGT March's head, ear, jaw and brain received the direct impact of the gunshot. In the past 2 years, he has undergone 7 procedures and can now smile on both sides of his face. With the help of his family, and positive attitude, his motor control has improved and his sense of humor makes him a joy to be around.

Marine Staff Sergeant Philip McGill

Phillip McGill

SSgt McGill came to Operation Mend in 2014. He currently lives in Texas with his wife and two children. He was injured while conducting a Humanitarian Mine Action course for the Cambodian military and demining groups. He was injured in a blast that caused nerve and muscle damage to the left arm, abdominal hernia and collapsed lung. He hopes to receive tendon transfers that will restore mobility and function to the left hand.

Army Corporal Pablo Mena

Pablo Mena

Corporal Pablo Mena entered the ARMY as a combat engineer in 2009. During his four years of service, he spent 2 years and 6 months overseas with the Outlaws of the 541st SAPPER Company, 54th Engineer Battalion in Bamberg, Germany and Afghanistan. He completed his final year at Ft. Irwin, California with the Red Devils of the 58th Combat Engineer Company, 11th Armored Cavalry. While deployed, Pablo was involved in 3 vehicular IED strikes and a rocket propelled grenade strike, from which he suffered a back injuries in addition to a concussion. Through the course of intensive firefights and searches for IED’s, he suffered injuries to his knees and ankle, but above all, his greatest pain came from the loss of fellow soldiers. 

Army Specialist Joseph (Joey) Paulk

Joey Paulk

SPC Paulk is now retired and living back in his hometown in California with his girlfriend and two dogs. On July 5, 2007 he was injured in Afghanistan when his tactical vehicle was hit by 3 anti-tank mines, flipping it over and igniting the fuel tank. Tragically, his team leader lost his life during the attack, and Joey was left with significant injuries. He suffered 40% burns to his body and face, smoke inhalation, paralysis of his vocal cords and complete amputation of all 10 fingers. He has had to re-learn how to walk, talk, swallow, and cope without the use of his hands. Joey is now an active spokesman for wounded warriors in southern California and is back to being very active in his athletic activities like snowboarding and soccer.

Army Staff Sergeant Jeffrey Pickard

Jeffrey Pickard

SSG Pickard came to Operation Mend in 2014. He currently lives in California with his wife and sons. He was injured while on patrol when he was hit by sniper fire. He was struck by a .762 armor piercing round in the left triceps, which severed the brachial plexus bundle of nerves. He lost all movement in his left arm and has since regained about 75% of movement. He suffers from carpal tunnel in both of his wrists and has difficulty using his hands for prolonged periods of time.

Marine Corporal Joseph Piram

Joseph Piram

Cpl Piram is now retired, and living in Minnesota with his family. Joe joined the Marine Corps after graduation from high school in 2004. He served two, 7-month long tours in Iraq, and was injured in Afghanistan only 2 months away from completing his service in the Marine Corps. On June 20, 2008, an improvised explosive device hit his Humvee. Joe was burned over 35% of his body and broke his back in the incident. He has extensive scarring on the right side of his face and has no right ear. Joe has had facial reconstruction done on his nose and is still seeing our dermatology department to reduce redness from his burn injuries. Joe continues to stay positive and continues to serve as a Police Officer.

Army Sergeant Major Colin Rich

Colin Rich

Army Sergeant Major Colin Rich is retired and lives with his wife in North Carolina. Trained as an Army Ranger and Special Forces Delta for 22+ years and highly decorated, SGM Rich had deployed to numerous “Hot Spots” around the world before being shot in the head in Afghanistan in 2002. Being the second bullet to hit him in the head, SGM Rich was still very much in the fight and deployed to Iraq and again to Afghanistan before becoming medically retired. Since Colin has been with Operation Mend, he has received multiple treatments to help decrease the frequency of the seizures he experiences as a result of his injuries. Colin has also seen by our Orthopedic and eye specialist. Colin now enjoys collecting war memorabilia and spending time with his grandchildren.

Marine Staff Sergeant Johnathan Rose

Johnathan Rose

SSgt Rose currently lives in Hubert, North Carolina with his wife. Johnathan was wounded in action by an IED blast on May 15, 2010, while serving overseas. He suffered second-degree burns and a fractured leg, jaw, hip and hands.

Marine Gunnery Sergeant Lawrence Salcido

Lawrence Salcido

GySgt Salcido currently lives in California with his wife and children. GySgt enlisted in the Marine Corps in July of 1993. Since then, he has served all over America and has deployed to Japan, Bahrain, Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. He was injured in Afghanistan on October 12, 2009 in an IED explosion. He sustained fractures to the thoracic spine and bruises to the lungs. His injuries were severe enough to be awarded the Purple Heart.

Marine Staff Sergeant Octavio Sanchez

Octavio Sanchez

Marine Staff Sergeant Octavio Sanchez is a married father of four and is currently retired and living in California. He was the victim of a makeshift roadside bomb in Ramadi and suffered third-degree burns over 70 percent of his face and body in June 2005. Before arriving at the V.A.-Greater Los Angeles, he was told there was nothing more that could be done for him. Operation Mend doctors were able to construct a nose, using skin from SSgt Sanchez's forehead. Once the blood supply was in place, one of his ribs was implanted to provide structure to the nose. Nostrils were fashioned out of remaining ear cartilage and his lips and cheeks were rebuilt. He has undergone several surgeries on his face and hand and now enjoys a more natural and normal appearance.

Air Force Staff Sergeant Brian Schiefer

Brian Schiefer

SSgt Schiefer was injured in a devastating pre-deployment training accident in Fort Irwin, California. He was ejected from a HMMWV I, and he sustained several spinal fractures, a double hemo pneumothorax, broken ribs, cracked sternum, broken clavicle, skull fracture, severed nerve in the left eye, neurogenic bowel and bladder, right ulnar nerve apathy and paralysis as a result of swelling of the spinal cord. He was classified as a complete paraplegic. Now, he dedicates his time advocating for veterans’ health issues and mentor other newly injured spinal cord injury patients. He also runs a defense contracting company.

Marine Master Sergeant Blaine Scott

Blaine Scott

MSgt Scott is Operation Mend's 7th patient and the first to have surgery at UCLA on his ankle as an Operation Mend participant. He is married and a father of three. On August 2006 he was hit with an I.E.D in Iraq. Three of his comrades died and three were injured. He ended up at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX after receiving 40% burns to his head, face, arms, and legs. He had a severely broken ankle and foot. He remains active duty, returned from another deployment in Afghanistan after several very successful surgeries at UCLA.

Army Sergeant Karolyn Smith

Karolyn Smith

SGT Smith currently lives in Lakeside, California. On April 15, 2005 while serving in Iraq as a machine gunner for the 127th Military Polices out of Germany, her truck was hit with an IED that was mounted on a light pole approximately 8 feet to her right.

Marine Sergeant Toby Snell

Toby Snell

Sgt Snell was injured in Fallujah, Iraq when a suicide car-bomb detonated behind him. He was hit with shrapnel in his back, neck, arms and legs. His right arm nerve damage was severe enough to prevent normal feeling and use of the right hand. He also experiences chronic back pain and has difficulty walking, sitting and sleeping. He currently lives in Washington state with his wife and two children.

Army Sergeant First Class Philip Stowe

Philip Stowe

SFC Philip Stowe is currently living in Texas with his wife and family. On November 30, 2003 while conducting a currency escort, his platoon was ambushed by over 100 insurgents that wanted to prevent the new currency from reaching the banks in the city of Samarra. Philip’s troop held their ground to give the currency personnel time to get the money inside the banks while backup was on the way. After a 40 minute gun battle, Philip was struck in the face by an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). He sustained damage to his face, eyes, and left ear. He came to UCLA Operation Mend for facial reconstructive surgery with our team of surgeons.

Marine Gunnery Sergeant Guillermo Tejada

Guillermo Tejada

Retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Guillermo “TJ” Tejada currently lives in Texas with his wife and kids. On Nov 11, 2010, GySgt Tejada was struck by an IED while on a foot patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan. TJ sustained multiple serious injuries to include loss of both legs, grade 3 concussion, ruptured eardrum, major trauma below the waist area, and injuries to his left arm and hand. He is currently on multiple board of directors for veteran advocate programs.

Army Sergeant Salvador Trujillo-Lopez

Salvador Lopez

Army Sergeant Salvador Trujillo-Lopez is currently living in Oregon with his wife and kids. He was injured on June 23, 2006 suffering second and third degree burns over 40 percent of his body when his Bradley fighting vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Salvador has undergone several surgeries on his face and hands as well as medical tattooing. His scars do not stop him from spending as much time with his kids as possible and snowboarding whenever he can. He is very happy with the results of his surgeries.

Army Sergeant Richard (Rick) Yarosh

Rick Yarosh

Army Sergeant Richard (Rick) Yarosh currently lives in New York. He was deployed to Iraq in December 2005 (then a PFC) as a driver of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and then moved to the gunner position. On September 1, 2006, Sgt. Yarosh and his fellow soldiers were on patrol in the Abu Ghraib region of Iraq when their Bradley vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. The explosion ruptured the vehicle's fuel cell and engulfed the entire crew and vehicle in flames. Sgt. Yarosh's face and body were on fire when he jumped from the top of the Bradley's turret. His jump broke his right leg, severing an artery, which resulted in an amputation (below the knee). He suffered burns over 60 percent of his body, lost partial digits and full use in both hands, lost both of his ears and part of his nose.

Army Staff Sergeant Oskar Zepeda

Oskar Zepeda vertical small

SSG Zepeda is currently living in California with his wife and kids.  On September 9, 2011, SSG Zepeda was wounded when he was conducting a night raid. The enemy that he was carrying in his arms pulled the pin on a grenade and blew up the entire right side of his body.  Due to the explosion, Zepeda’s right arm was injured along with the shattering of his brachial artery. He also sustained damage to his right quad, hamstrings and also suffers from a foot drop.