Scars To Freedom Helps Vets Repair Wounds
PALM DESERT – When Rebecca Antell, 38, of Rockford, Illinois returned home after serving two tours in Iraq she came back with physical scars and suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Antell worked in the Army as a Gunner and Dismount for EODs, commonly known as the bomb squad. She reached out to a local charity after hearing they helped wounded veterans get their scars and burns removed for free.
Antell contacted Guadalupe Ponte, founder of Scars to Freedom, a charity dedicated to helping soldiers heal their scars and burns. After hearing Antell’s story about being only woman in her platoon that cleared roads of bombs and other ordinance, Ponte decided to help her.
“I’m dealing with a lot right now,” Antell said recently. “I watched my best friend get blown up in front of me. I tried to help him but couldn’t,” she added with tears in her eyes. Antell suffers from “survivor’s guilt” and relives that horrible moment every day and night.
“Once, I stepped out of the truck onto an IED and should have been blown to pieces. Ne and everyone else in that truck (four other soldiers) should have been blown up, but God was on our side. It wasn’t our day to go,” she said.
“The triggerman was busy that day, or had other plans for me. I guess I have more to do in life.”
Antell’s spirits were lifted after Dr. Mark Sofonio, Chief of Staff in Plastic Surgery at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Desert, removed some scars from her body. The surgery also removed some demons inside that she had been hiding from everyone of a long time.
“I use to stop people from asking me about what happened in Iraq. Now, I can at least talk about it,” she said.
Antell served in in Southern Iraq and in Bagdad from May 2004 to October 2005, then again from October 2008 to September 2009. It was all urban environment where her platoon helped the Iraqui Police transition into power.
“I have no regrets about anything. The experiences made me stronger, made me who I am today,” she said.
Ponte is treating two Marines from Camp Pendleton this week to come for treatments with her at the Scar Treatment Recovery Center located at 71399 Hwy. 111 in Palm Desert. If you know a veteran who needs scars or burns removed, contact her at 760-340-1136 or go to scarstofreedom.org.