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Plastic surgeons help veterans heal wounds of war

Some of America's most skilled cosmetic surgeons are putting their skills to work to help America's troops heal.
/ Source: TODAY

It’s taken more than 30 surgeries to help repair the damage Specialist Shealynn Casserly suffered after an encounter with a roadside bomb.

“The injuries were from head to toe,” Casserly says. “Kinda one of those you name it I had it.”

An important part of Casserly’s road home has been the efforts of plastic surgeons to erase the scars left by the explosion.

“If it was a guy, I think my scars would be really cool,” she says. “But because I’m a girl, I want to be pretty. I think that’s probably the biggest thing. I get stared at a lot.”

While liposuction and lip plumping in the rich and famous grab most of the headlines, there are also less heralded plastic surgeries that are helping the nation’s veterans heal.

In South Beach, Dr. Sergio Alvarez, spends two days each week helping to repair the damage wrought by war.

“Maybe my life is full of contrasts,” Alvarez told TODAY for the "Secrets of Plastic Surgery" series. “I’ve been very blessed, and it gives me a lot of pleasure to give back. The procedures that we’re able to do as plastic surgeons give people the ability to change the way they think, the way they feel, and the way they interact on a day-to-day basis.”

That “giving back” has included a new ear for retired Air Force pilot Alan Jackson, who says wryly, “everybody wants to look pretty.”

Dr. Elan Singer, a naval reservist, leaves his New York City practice one weekend each month to help veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The work, he says, “grounds me.”

“When I come here, it is very different than my practice in Manhattan,” Singer says. “It’s very eye opening and humbling. Without the surgery it’s a stumbling block for them to continue with their lives. This is very rewarding and it’s important to me emotionally.”

Singer is helping patients like Captain Greg Galeazzi, whose life was forever changed by an IED in Afghanistan. That explosion took both of Galeazzi’s legs and left him with ugly scars.

“I felt like basically a shell of a man,” Galeazzi says. “If the plastic surgeons can do something to help guys like me feel more confident with ourselves, then it’s absolutely worth it.”

Galeazzi has been so inspired by the man he calls “Doc Hollywood” that he’s now studying to become a doctor himself.