Honouring the wounds of war

Perceiving Our Wounded Warriors

I am the mother of a severely injured soldier from the Iraq War. My son, Ret Army Sgt Scott Stephenson and I started Tempered Steel to combat the negative and critical ways in which his scars and amputation have been perceived by the general public. Our goal is to educate the public on how to support our nation’s newest generation of wounded military members.

Our first hand experiences to the responses my son’s injuries evoked on civilians and military alike, compelled us to break down the barriers between wounded and disfigured veterans and those who only see their scars. I have witnessed true heartache as my son has been stared at; shunned and even demeaned by the very public he fought for.

Tempered Steel is determined to change those misconceptions of our country’s wounded warriors through education and awareness. Tempered Steel’s wounded warriors will be speaking at schools, community groups and events, corporate gatherings and Tempered Steel gallery showings.

The name, Tempered Steel, comes from bracelets that my son and his squad leader had made in honor of each other. They basically state “not brothers by blood, but brothers by surviving the fires of hell”. There could not be a more accurate statement. All of our wounded have “survived the fires of hell” and came out better and stronger than ever hence, Tempered Steel.

Our wounded warrior’s scars are a visible and permanent testament to the physically traumatic experiences each has endured. Yet there are hidden injuries that scar and are just as debilitating. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are specific examples of these. Our warriors have opened up their hearts and minds to enlighten the public to the humanity within the warrior, the dignity within the scars, and the power of the human spirit.

The beauty that is seen within the images of the photo introspective “Honoring the Wounds of War” is so profoundly and spiritually moving that those who have seen it are changed forever. When you see the love between a father and son, the beauty of a scarred arm holding a perfect baby, an amputee proudly displaying his military decorated prosthetic leg, a veteran with his tattoos celebrating his mother, an IED (improvised explosive device) burn survivor in his “Got Burns?” shirt, a facial scarred veteran with no ears clowning for the camera, you cannot not be touched.

The photo introspective was shown at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in November 2010 and is now on display at the Muchnic Art Gallery in Atchison, Kansas. The photographs taken by photographer Micaela Bensko are a remarkable addition to Tempered Steel.

As the mother of one of our country’s more seriously injured soldiers, I encourage our nation to take the time to read and explore more about Tempered Steel, Inc. and our Wounded Military Members. Take the time to look past the scars and into the hearts of those who have chosen to serve and fight for our protection.

I urge you to share our web site with as many individuals as possible. We look forward to working closely with everyone in celebrating the dignity and beauty of our country’s heroes.

-Luana A Schneider