Editor's Note: A portion of the following story, originally published in the Sept. 10th edition, was inadvertently omitted and this is the story in its entirety.
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DuBOIS — Each year around Veterans Day, one or more U.S. heroes is given the precious gift of clearer vision, thanks to eye surgeon Dr. Parag Parekh of Clearview Eye Consultants in DuBois.
Parekh, who teams up with Nittany Eye Associates of State College for this free LASIK procedure for veterans, said this has been offered for a few years now.
It’s always very difficult to choose a winner, he said. There are some years the surgery is awarded to one veteran, and others times, two or three of them are chosen.
Reading the stories of these war heroes always “tugs at your heartstrings,” said Parekh, noting that it’s important to always honor and remember the sacrifice of these soldiers, who have done so much for the American people.
“They come back, and they’ve seen and been through things none of us can understand,” he said.
There are different levels and ways to say “Thank you” to a veteran, said Parekh, whether it’s just saying the words of appreciation or dressing in patriotic colors on military-related days such as Memorial or Veterans days, something he encourages his children to do.
The free LASIK surgery is the way he feels he can demonstrate his thanks, said Parekh.
“We all have different gifts and talents,” he said. “As an eye surgeon, this is what I can do that’s special for them. Your eyes are so vital and so important. This is one of the things we are able to fix a lot of the time.”
This LASIK surgery for veterans is “very well-deserved,” said Parekh, noting that the recipients always seem very flattered, honored and grateful. On the day of the surgery, the environment in the office is extra exciting and uplifting, he said, and it’s one of the most enjoyable days for staff members to be a part of.
Veteran Keith Wells was chosen for the free LASIK surgery that took place Nov. 19, 2020.
Wells, a paratrooper in the U.S. Army, served with “prestigious units” like the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, the spearhead into Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm, he said. Wells was also involved with special operations in the 82nd Airborne, stationed out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“It was truly an honor to serve, and those were some of the best days of my life. As you can imagine a soldier relies heavily on eyesight to perform the job,” he said.
Over time, Wells said his eyes became “less tolerant” of contact lenses. While playing sports and doing other outdoor activities, he said glasses became “too cumbersome.”
“Through laser-eye surgery, Dr. Parekh and Nittany Eye Associates have given that quality of life back to me. It’s amazing how great I feel not having to worry about contacts or glasses anymore,” said Wells. “‘Thank you’ does not express enough how grateful I am.”
Wells noted that everyone involved was extremely accommodating and accurate, delivering “top-notch care.” Staff also acted as a support system, following through with him following the surgery to see how he was doing.