Iraq Star Inc.

Spotlight on: Iraq Star, Inc.

Iraq Star, Inc.: Providing Reconstructive Surgery to American Soldiers Returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

More than 40,000 U.S. servicemen and servicewomen have returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with emotional and physical scars. Improvements in immediate front-line treatment and rapid evacuation of the injured have saved many more lives than would have been possible in past wars. However, many of these wounded warriors now live with traumatic brain injuries and more severe deformities than seen in previous conflicts. Military physicians provide treatment and surgery to close some of the wounds, but disfiguring scars from shrapnel, burns and other traumas remain and often need special attention from reconstructive plastic surgeons.

That's when Iraq Star, Inc. steps in. Since 2007, the non-profit foundation has provided reconstructive and aesthetic surgeries to more than 60 wounded American soldiers, some of whom are still on active duty.

Iraq Star was founded by Maggie Lockridge, RN, who served in the U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps before running her own plastic surgery recovery center in the Los Angeles area. Lockridge was so moved by the plight of soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan that she wrote to 30 of her favorite surgeons to ask them to donate their services. "Every one of them came onboard," she recalls.

Today, 245 board-certified reconstructive and aesthetic surgeons from 42 states donate their time and skills to Iraq Star, performing pro bono ear and nose reconstruction, shrapnel removal, scar revisions on the face and torso, hand and arm reconstruction, laser treatments for red scars, and even injections of hyaluronic acid fillers like Restylane and Perlane to fill some scars.

Many veterans are more bothered by these small facial scars than by the major difficulties involving their prosthetic limbs, says Iraq Star Medical Director Norman Leaf, MD. "By improving these lesser deformities, we have found that they regain their sense of self-confidence, which helps ease their re-entry into civilian life," says Dr. Leaf, a plastic surgeon in private practice in Beverly Hills, CA and an associate clinical professor of plastic surgery at UCLA Medical Center.

Some reconstructive surgeries are extremely complex, expensive and involve multiple procedures, but they can have profound effects on a soldier's ability to function in the field and once they return to civilian life. For example, Army Veteran Marco Robledo of Arkansas lost his left ear, left arm and left leg in an improvised explosive device explosion in Iraq. Iraq Star arranged for three separate plastic surgeries to create a new ear from his own skin and bone grafts, make cosmetic adjustments to his other ear and remove shrapnel from his lip. The cost of these surgeries, with discounts, came to $15,500 — paid for by donations to Iraq Star.

Iraq Star also collaborates with the Veterans Administration and Angel Flight pilots who volunteer their aircraft and time to transport soldiers to their surgeries when necessary. "Iraq Star physicians are available on a grassroots basis to help with the care of our wounded in or very close to their own homes," explains Dr. Leaf. "This is a distinct advantage over the situation in which a wounded vet and his family needs to live at or near a military or VA facility."

Wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars can contact Lockridge through the Iraq Star website to apply for services. Alternatively, they can call (310)245-6775 or email iraqstarinfo@aol.com. Lockridge can usually arrange a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon within two weeks of an initial contact; surgery can often be scheduled within a month. To do your part and contribute to Iraq Star, click here.

In addition to costs of the surgery, Iraq Star also covers transportation, hotel accommodations, food, anesthesia, hospital fees, and medical supplies, as well as expenses for a family member to accompany the soldier to their destination. The group is fully funded by donations from the public.

For information on other related charities, visit our overview page.