Cruz's surgery was more complicated than many because he had significant trauma and because the previous surgery left a layer of scar tissue, Finn said.
"It was an impressive degree of obstruction," Finn said. Few people would have suffered with such severe breathing problems for years as Cruz did, he said.
Cruz was Finn's first patient under the Faces of Honor program, although he said he's performed free surgery for domestic violence victims for 17 years. He also participates in the academy's international program, in which surgeons operate on patients overseas and train doctors in countries such as China and Guatemala.
"Doing something that allows you to give back gives meaning to your life and career," said Finn, whose father served in the 101st Airborne Division. "Having a chance to give back to these guys is just priceless for us."
Cruz, a married father of two, said he hopes other troops take advantage of the program.
"I'm humbled because I know people who have way more injuries than I have that could really benefit from their work," he said.
Martha Waggoner can be reached at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc