Soldiers Get Free Vision Surgery

By Laura Baverman – Cinncinati Enquirer/Press – 9/3/2010

A local soldier can throw away his glasses and contact lenses, thanks to the efforts of LCA-Vision chief operating officer Dave Thomas.

Last December, the Sycamore Township-based chain of laser vision correction centers joined with the Wounded Warrior Project, a Jacksonville, Fla., organization that provides aid to soldiers injured during war. Thomas’ goal was to make life a little easier for those who sacrificed for our country.

Surgeons at any of the firm’s 62 laser vision correction centers around the nation would provide free corrective surgery to soldiers injured during battle in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’d also provide complimentary surgery to soldiers’ spouses or chief caregivers.

Since January, 40 soldiers and three caregivers have received the treatment. About 35 more will receive the procedure in the coming months.

Staff Sgt. Jose Hernandez was the first local soldier to receive the free surgery on Aug. 5. The 29-year-old Union Township resident received a gunshot to his right arm in May 2003, ending his 3½-year service in Iraq. Since then, he’s suffered from post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorders and ringing of the ears. He still serves in the Army Reserves.

Hernandez couldn’t wear contact lenses on the battlefield due to the heavy dust and sand.

“It was always an issue. And glasses would get dusted and I was sweating. They impacted the way I shoot and handle my weapon,” he said. “Being able to see without them is awesome.”

The surgery saved Hernandez more than $3,000, the approximate cost of the procedure for both eyes.

Thomas can identify with Hernandez. A West Point graduate and U.S. Army veteran, Thomas was legally blind without glasses during his term in the military. Glasses were cumbersome when he had to react quickly in the night, or wear along with helmets, protective goggles and other gear. Since joining LCA-Vision in October 2008, he’s championed laser surgery for those in the military.

“It materially changes the way you function,” Thomas said. “This is a great way for them to have at least some relief.”

The Wounded Warrior initiative came as Thomas sought ways for his company to be more involved in the communities where it operates. Thomas spent much of his career at McDonald’s Corp. and several years on the global advisory council of the Ronald McDonald House, which supports and houses families whose children are being treated at hospitals.

He saw firsthand the impact corporate citizenship could have on those in need. It also generated good will among employees.

Many have told him their involvement with the project has been the most rewarding thing they’ve done in their careers as surgeons or technicians.

“We’re fortunate the technology exists and our people have the skill sets to help these folks’ lives become somewhat more palatable,” Thomas said.

Courtesy of the Doctors at Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care; Optometrists, Ophthalmologists and Opticians working together to help you see better.  Serving the Rockville, Potomac and Gaithersburg Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC for over 40 years. For more information visit youreyesite.com or call (301) 670-1212

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