Many returning U.S. combat soldiers bear physical wounds that may have healed, but have left them with deep emotional scars. It is especially painful for a veteran who has suffered a disfiguring facial wound as a result of a roadside bomb, gunshot wound, exploded land mine, rocket propelled grenade, or motor vehicle accident.

In 2008, the federal government earmarked $85 million in funding to support reconstructive surgery research for catastrophic injuries suffered by U.S. soldiers while on active duty. The research by the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) has been delving into new tissue repair therapies, including remarkable stem cell technology to regrow damaged or destroyed facial tissue.

The combat injury statistics have been staggering. In 2008, nearly 30,000 soldiers were wounded in action in Iraq while 1,927 suffered battlefield injuries in Afghanistan. Each year, more American soldiers rotate back to civilian life minus one or more limbs, a severe brain injury, or severe facial wounds.

Members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons have been playing a key role in AFIRM research over the past five years. In fact, 25 percent of AFIRM researchers are board certified plastic surgeons, many of whom are ASPS members. According to research, 26 percent of soldiers wounded in battle suffered facial injuries. These injuries in many cases have been personally devastating and have had direct negative impacts on the normal lives of soldiers since returning to civilian life.

Fortunately for these wounded men and women, therapy for combat-related facial injuries is not confined to the insides of a veterans’ hospital. Many civilian plastic surgeons have been fully trained in facial reconstruction, whether it be the removal of severely disfiguring scars, nasal reconstruction, skin tissue repair, and wound repair using fat transfer technology. Many new treatments are now available thanks to innovative surgical technologies based on the biology of fat tissue. For these legions of wounded warriors, plastic surgery has the power to make them physically whole once again.

If you are a U.S. veteran who has suffered a disfiguring facial combat injury, your service and sacrifice to your country should not be endured alone. Please consider having a private consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon to discuss what your options are for healing your physical wounds once and for all.

Dr. Kyle S. Choe is a board certified facial plastic surgeon and hair restoration specialist in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Contact The Choe Center for Facial Plastic Surgery at 757.389.5850 for a personal consultation.