Changed for Life – A Visit with a Real American Hero

This is the story of an American Hero, Robert Henline, from our dear friends at The Iraq Star Foundation.  Bobby was severely injured while serving our nation.  His story is one of courage and overcoming adversity.  Bobby is the same amazing person on the inside.  My friend, Micaela Bensko, is an international photographer with a heart of gold.  She and her mom, Maggie Lockridge, a nurse, founded The Iraq Star Foundation.  This amazing group provides pro bono surgeries for severely wounded warriors such as Bobby Henline.

I encourage all of our users to support The Iraq Star Foundation so they can help other heroes such as Bobby.  Go to   Remember, freedom is not free.  Bobby and others have paid a dear price for it. salutes Robert Henline – an American hero and an awesome comedian!

Debbie Gregory, CEO

*  *  *  *

Tempered Steel…The Story Behind the Henline

July 8 2010

The door opened and a waft of cool air released from the frame, expelling the San Antonio heat from my skin. A kind, bellowing voice welcomed me in, accompanied by a nervous growl from Duke, his bohemoth Mastiff raised with gentle hands but wearing the genetic twitch of an electrocuted rabbit. Bobby Henline’s home is the haven of hope, possibilities, and through his wife’s exquisite execution, a Martha Stewart homage to all that is still right in this world, in spite of what happened to him in Iraq, where he was severly injured in an IED explosion in 2007.

As I waited for the day’s photo sessions of wounded warriors to begin, my eyes crawled the walls of pictures of his beautiful wife, Connie, and his three children. My eyes stopped on four frames lined up like soldiers saluting their leaders, each photo matted with a poem written by Robert, before and after his accident. His wife’s photo held with the matting a poem he wrote the week prior to the explosion, from the front lines to his love. Each child’s photo with their own personal expression of devotion and pride, each a private dedication to their altered lives since their father changed.

Only Robert didn’t change on the inside, he is still the same wise cracking jokester he was before, only now perhaps even bolder, with greater courage and fearlessness. When most patients are burned as severely as he is, with 38% of his body covered in debilitating scars, their spirits are often injured beyond repair. For Robert his injuries opened a door of unusual opportunities which have changed his perception of life’s purpose and given him a new mission, a mission without weapons of iron, but the weapons of Tempered Steel.

Tempered Steel is an organization started by Iraq Star soldier Scott Stephenson and his mother Luana Schneider after he was seriously wounded and disfigured in Iraq in November 2006. Their mission is to break down the barriers between wounded and disfigured veterans and those who only see their scars. The goal is to exchange fear for enlightenment by exposing the very real human stories behind the wounds of war, and I am honored and humbled to have been asked to shoot their Tempered Steel Photo Introspective of wounded military veterans.

Scott and Luana contacted other severely wounded military members and asked for their participation and involvement in the portrait sessions, and the response was overwhelmingly, “YES”.

The images will be accompanied by personal interview accounts culminated by Amanda Cherry-Haus. Amanda and her husband MSG James Haus were recently featured in an interview with Bob Woodruff for World News with Diane Sawyer addressing the alarming rate of veteran suicides.  As a military spouse of a soldier with severe PTSD, Amanda has educated herself on the issues gaining certification on PTSD treatment and causes.  She is currently starting her own charity called W.O.M.A.N.-Women of the Military Advocacy Network, to focus on the unique needs of military women and families while working with Tempered Steel.

We shot our first sessions in San Antonio at Robert Henline’s home, with such an incredible response by those involved, that an additional day of sessions was added. Since then, the project is moving full steam ahead.We look forward to a traveling gallery exhibit to the cities of San Antonio, Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., San Diego and Los Angeles with images also accompanying Tempered Steel’s injured vets as they travel the country sensitizing our youth to the value of acceptance by speaking to Junior Highs and High Schools across the country.

Robert Henline, graced with the armor of humor, insight, wisdom, and irony, is now a professional comedian. He has embraced his new extreme makeover and travels from club to club with the most outrageous of comedy routines, never skipping a beat and reminding the public of the power of the human spirit and the beauty that lives within the most unexpected places.