Watch CBSN Live

Mission To Mend Disfigured Soldiers

For soldiers who have been severely disfigured in Iraq and Afghanistan, getting back to life can be difficult, but a new program is offering some hope.

Bill White, president of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum told Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez on Friday about "Operation Mend," which provides reconstructive surgery for veterans who were severely disfigured during combat.

"It's actually creating miracles," White said of the surgeries performed at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. "On Father's Day coming up on Sunday, these young kids can come home to their favorite sailor, marine, coast guard, soldier with a new face."

The program is operated through a partnership between UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

"We pay for all of the soldiers expenses, which includes the costs to have their family stay near them while they are in the hospital," White told CBS News. "Sometimes they have to spend weeks there."

White told Rodriguez about U.S. Marine Cpl. Aaron Mankin, who said he was afraid that when his baby girl grew up that she wouldn't bring her friends home because of how he looked. Mankin was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Iraq, and sustained burns over 25 percent of his body. And his face was severely disfigured.

White said philanthropist Ronald Katz' heart was broken up over Mankin's story. Katz, who serves on the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center board of advisors, donated about $1 million to the program to help Mankin and 22 other soldiers who are now benefitting from the effort.

White said they are still trying to raise $10 million more. If you would like to help, please visit the Intrepid Relief Fund.

View CBS News In