It was a frigid 32 degrees during the New York City Veterans Day Parade but the more than 60 people marching on behalf of UCLA Health’s Operation Mend were all smiles.

Patients, family members, physicians, staff and supporters from the Operation Mend program, which provides free medical treatment as well as psychological support to post-9/11 veterans injured during combat or training, have been walking in the parade each Veterans Day for the past seven years.

“Not everybody gets to do this in their lifetime,” said Tony Casada, a retired Army infantry specialist and a patient of Operation Mend. “Being able to be here with other veterans that share the same experiences and struggles is an honor.”

Half a million spectators cheered for the Operation Mend team and the other 40,000 parade participants as they marched the 1.3-mile parade route up Fifth Avenue.

“Walking in the New York City Veteran’s Day Parade is so inspiring,” said Dr. Sharon Hame, clinical professor of orthopaedic surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a member of the Operation Mend program. “The huge crowd that came out in the very cold weather to thank our veterans for their service makes me proud to be part of Operation Mend and the care we give to our nation's veterans.”

Founded in 2007, Operation Mend provides advanced surgical and medical treatment and comprehensive psychological health care for service members, veterans and their families at no cost. It also offers advanced diagnostics and treatment for patients with symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury and PTSD through the Warrior Care Network, a collaboration between Wounded Warrior Project, UCLA and three academic medical center partners. Operation Mend is available to eligible warriors injured during combat operations or while training for service. All medical care, travel and accommodations are provided at no cost to participants and their families.

To learn more or to donate, visit Operation Mend.