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Mending lives: Dr. Robert Gaines ’95

Dr. Robert Gaines ’95 reconstructs the limbs of soldiers as chief of Orthopedic Trauma at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va.

Mending lives: Dr. Robert Gaines ’95

Dr. Robert Gaines ’95 is the Chief of Orthopedic Trauma at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va., and is a commander in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Navy.

Mending lives: Dr. Robert Gaines ’95

Dr. Robert Gaines ’95 reconstructs the limbs of soldiers as chief of Orthopedic Trauma at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va.

When the military’s strong men and women are broken by battle, Dr. Robert Gaines ’95 has been there to help rebuild lives.

Gaines is the Chief of Orthopedic Trauma at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va., and he is a commander in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Navy. During 13 years of active duty, Gaines has cared for many Marines and Navy Seals — both in combat areas and in stateside medical facilities.

“It is a different animal in a combat theater (compared to a hospital),” says Gaines. “When it comes down to dealing with patients, there are none better than these kids. They are in firefights and are gone from home. They are tough as nails, appreciative and they want to get better.”

Gaines helps them get better through an evaluation process and reconstruction of limbs.

“The guys who make limbs have gotten much better and we are getting better at working with the biology of injuries,” he says. “The hard part is to keep the limbs functional.”

The reconstruction process for limbs can take a year or two. Gaines has made many new friends as he gets to know the families of the military men under his care.

PhotoWhen Gaines’ military duty ends in August 2013, he is looking forward to returning home. For a military kid who grew up in a handful of states, home is Texas.

There is one thing that sticks in Gaines’ gut after 13 years.

“At Camp Lejeune in North Carolina — on the bus ride for Marines coming and going back — there is butcher paper on the chain-link fences that says, ‘Welcome Back.’ Some kids die literally holding pictures of their family in their hands. For every wife and 2-year-old kid that doesn’t get a chance to hang a Welcome Home sign on a fence, that bothers me.”