The Sight to Fight


In 2005, while serving as a medic with the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, Timothy (TJ) Laynor was involved in a cave-clearing mission in Afghanistan. During this highly hazardous mission, there was an accident and the cave exploded, causing minor injuries to his right ear and right eye.

It wouldn’t be until TJ came back to Hawaii, where he was stationed, that an optometrist began to have concerns about injuries to his eye. She had noticed that his retina was heavily damaged in the periphery and was beginning to tear away from the eye wall. Without specialized procedures, it was a distinct possibility that TJ would not be able to continue living the active lifestyle that he loved. Surfing, mountaineering, snowboarding and also going on deployments with his unit would be things of the past. Immediately after seeing his optometrist, TJ was referred to Dr. Michael D. Bennett and Retina Institute of Hawaii.

TJ said, “When I first met Dr. Bennett, he wants to know all about you. What kind of person are you? What stuff do you like to do? What is your occupation? I didn’t hold back at all. I didn’t want my lifestyle to end. I wanted to continue to serve my country. I wanted to continue to surf and board. He told me to trust him and things would not change.”

Dr. Bennett explained a procedure he wanted to do for TJ that utilized silicone oil to hold the retina in place against the eye wall until it healed. Once the retina healed, his eye would be back to functioning again and TJ would be out surfing the North Shore of Oahu in no time. TJ went into surgery the next day, and within hours after the procedure was over, Retina Institute of Hawaii called to check on him and ask if there was anything he needed. This highly personal attention would continue to be the standard level of care and cemented a strong relationship from that point on between TJ and Retina Institute of Hawaii.

TJ expressed his experience this way, “Dr. Bennett’s office was one place that radiated comfort. I can’t tell you how much each and every staff member at Dr. Bennett’s office makes you feel as if you are the most important patient there.”


TJ was able to save 35 patients injured from a car bomb attack because of Retina Institute of Hawaii and Dr. Bennett’s Care.

By 2006, TJ was looking to deploy once again, and it was because of Retina Institute of Hawaii and Dr. Bennett’s help that TJ was able to go overseas, run a very successful medical clini and save more than 700 soldiers’ lives during 2006-2007.

During his deployment, TJ was able to successfully treat 35 patients injured in a car bomb attack on the anniversary of 9/11 in 2006. All the patients who came into TJ’s clinic that day were evacuated and survived. To show his gratitude to Dr. Bennett for giving him the chance to help all of these people, TJ saved and carried (for close to a year) the flag that was flown over his clinic on the day of the attack. When he returned to Hawaii, he presented this flag and a plaque to Dr. Bennett, which now are proudly displayed in the RIH office. TJ said, “It was Dr. Bennett and his staff who allowed me to be there and help those people. I owe him and Retina Institute of Hawaii more than they will ever know.”

There was one other thing that TJ was able to do while on deployment, and that was meet a beautiful physician whom he married in 2009. “I would never have met my wife if Dr. Bennett had not fixed my eye,” he said.

Since TJ first walked into Dr. Bennett’s office a few years ago, he has not had any more problems with his retina and is now serving on his third deployment as the medical officer for a Stryker Brigade Combat Team. TJ also continues to be active every day, including surfing in the summer and snowboarding in the winter. Just recently, he summitted Mt. Rainer, at more than 14,000 feet, and now he is looking to travel to Mt. Everest when he gets back from Iraq.