Nightly News   |  June 27, 2013

Building a community in LA for wounded warriors

Operation Mend, a UCLA Medical Center program for wounded veterans, provides complex medical procedures while also connecting vets with local families who provide a personal connection during the vets’ recovery and subsequent treatments in Los Angeles. NBC’s Mike Taibbi reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> finally tonight, a small percentage of americans are motivated to raise their hands and volunteer for duty in the armed forces . civilian life goes on while veterans and their families make towering sacrifices, every one of them. some more than others, and when they come home, some need more help than others. which brings us to tonight's making a difference report. about something called operation mend. it links vets who need treatment to families who then gain a friend. report from mike tiabbi in los angeles .

>> reporter: three times they said israel del toro wasn't going to make it. his humvee was destroyed, and he was set afire. 80% of his body, including his handsome face, had been hideously burned. it is now eight years and more than 100 surgical procedures later.

>> i love working with d.t.

>> reporter: dozens of those procedures, under a program called operation mend.

>> that actually healed pretty nicely.

>> reporter: healing the body, only one part of the long process. the rest is healingi inthe body and soul . that's where this family comes in. they are among 70 california families matched to badly injured vets like d.t. giving them a home and personal connection while they are in california for treatment. a connection in both directions.

>> he's teaching patience, that you are not your body.

>> reporter: a chicagosouthside southsider, he thought death might be easier.

>> reporter: his son and wife carmen only see him as d.t., a father and husband making a remarkable recovery, few predicted was possible and this. now four years into a friendship for life.

>> honey, i got a deer.

>> reporter: a home cooked meal, for operation mend's body and soul approach.

>> he is so beautiful inside, comes right out to me.

>> they are just down to earth. family, i can't explain it.

>> friendship and family.

>> reporter: d.t., not just in the house, but in his other home. mike tiabbi, nbc news, los angeles .