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59 MDW cares for the warfighter

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- "This is our purpose and my motivation for what we do," said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Ketu Lincoln, 59th Medical Wing oral maxillofacial prosthodontic fellow, describing the patient that inspired her. "He's given so much, so we wanted to do whatever possible as a way of giving back to him."

In mid-November, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kenneth Dwyer, a Special Forces officer assigned to U.S. Army 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, traveled to San Antonio for a week for a follow-up appointment. Within that short timeframe, he left with more than he expected and was able to get one of his longtime wishes fulfilled thanks to the specialists here at the wing.

"I appreciate all the things the staff has done," said Dwyer. "The staff has been incredible in helping get me to be the best me that I can be."

In 2006, Dwyer was 29 years old and had only been in the Army for eight years. During a deployment to Afghanistan, he sustained near-fatal injuries from an enemy rocket-propelled grenade.

"After I got hurt, I remember my first thoughts when they pulled me out of sedation and I talked to my battalion commander," said Dwyer. "I told him to send me back in. I wanted to know what I needed to do to get back in the fight because I didn't want to let my guys down."

After a long road to recovery, Dwyer managed to not only recover but excel at life, and he now commands an elite unit of Army Green Berets and Rangers on a daily basis.

"I have been in the Army now longer with one hand and one eye than when I had two hands and two eyes," said Dwyer. I want the people around me--my soldiers, peers, and family to realize it's not acceptable to quit doing what you love just because it gets a little bit harder or you get hurt," said Dwyer. "You just got to find a creative way to do it and make it happen."

For years Dwyer has wanted to honor the men and women he has served with and had a thought of reproducing his unit's crest on his prosthetic eye. Lincoln consulted with the wing's medical illustrators at the public affairs office to construct the crest.

Robert Shelley, 59th MDW medical illustrator, gladly accepted the tasked and coined the experience working with Dwyer as rewarding.

"Guys get tattoos and things they're proud of such as their kids' or family's name, symbols or whatever," said Dwyer. "For me it's my tribute to the unit and the guys who never had a chance to come home. And how boring would it be if I just had a regular eye…now I can show off my unit and how proud I am."

Dwyer described how the wing is a convenient location because there are so many assets here.

"It's amazing what I was able to get done in a week and it was way more than I expected," he said. "I didn't think I was going to be able to get the surgery completed. I expected to have the initial consult, and thought I would have to come back for more treatment."

Occasionally Dwyer's previous prosthetic eye would slip out of position due to the degeneration of muscles around the eye socket. Lincoln contacted Dr. Brett Davies, 59th MDW director of orbit and oculoplastics, and within two days they were able to perform a surgery to tighten up Dwyer's lower eyelid. He also received an oral examination for the evaluation of the dental implants placed following his injury. In addition, Dwyer had the opportunity to get his prosthetic arm worked on at the Center for the Intrepid at the San Antonio Military Medical Center.

"Overall the customer service, level of training and expertise, and professionalism of every single airman, officer and doctor I have talked to here has been tremendous," Dwyer said. "They get you in and take care of your needs. Everyone has jumped through hoops to make things happen."

Every service member, regardless of branch or specialty, have their part to play in the greater construct of the military," he said.

Lincoln described how she simply wanted to do her part as a way of giving back and contributing to the mission.

"As a dental specialist, I more than likely will never find myself in actual combat," said Lincoln. "He's the one that's directly contributing to the war effort. By taking care of the warfighter and getting him back to the fight, we are doing our part in trying to save lives."