Army Sergeant Scott Stephenson and his mom Luana Schneider run Tempered Steel, a 501(c)3 whose goal is to provide a way for military men and women who have been physically wounded in war share their stories  through public dialogue.

While serving in Iraq, Scott’s humvee hit an Improvised Explosive Device. As a result Scott suffered third and fourth degree burns over 66% of his body, had a shattered left humorous, amputated left lower leg and multiple internal injuries. Scott and Luana spoke at our corporate office earlier this week, about their journey and the mission of Tempered Steel.

We were able to ask Scott a few questions at the end of their presentation and we wanted to share that with you this Veterans Day.

HCA: You talked today about some of the reactions you get from others when they see you; the staring, whispers, etc. What are one or two examples of interactions that you think are appropriate? What do you wish people would do instead of staring or whispering?

Scott Stephenson: I’m an open book and have nothing to hide. Most of the guys and girls who have been wounded are like that. If you want to know what happened, just ask. We’re so politically correct that we’ve forgotten common courtesy. Give me the chance to tell my story.

HCA: When you talk with children, do they ever ask why you put yourself in harm’s way by joining the military?

SS: Not really. Kids are easier to talk with. They really just want to know more about the injuries and prosthetics than anything else.

Q: You’re so spirited given everything that has happened to you. Do you feel like you were chosen to go out and share this message?

SS: Personally I don’t feel like I’m part of a bigger plan. I feel lucky that it was me because I don’t think the other guys in my truck would have survived honestly. I was in such good shape at the time and they say that was a huge factor in me surviving. But you know the guys in my truck are dealing with things like PTSD now because of what happened. The guy who was driving still won’t drive. So in one way or another, we were all affected.

HCA: What is one thing you want us to share with others?

SS: Don’t stare. Ask. The worst thing that someone can say when you ask is “I don’t want to talk about it.”

HCA: What does it do for you to go out and talk about your experience?

SS: It’s an outlet. When I tell my story, it helps me heal.

HCA: What’s on the horizon for Tempered Steel?

SS: We’re working on a photo introspective called “Honoring the Wounds of War” that uses photography to show the beauty behind the scars and wounds of war. With accompanying stories, these images are a powerful message of hope, beauty and triumph. We have some of them posted in a YouTube video we created. With eventual corporate sponsorship, Tempered Steel has been granted the privilege, by the IRS, to produce a book of these images and stories that will be available in 2012.  At this time the photo introspective is a traveling gallery to educate the public on our wounded military members.

We’re also involved in the Library of Congresses: Veterans History Program. We interview veterans on film and produce a DVD that is then sent to the LOC where it will become a part of history.

And we want to continue to expand our Speaking Program. Our goal is to have at least one injured military member in every state speaking on behalf of Tempered Steel.

 

To Scott, Luana and all veterans (including the families who support them) – we say thank you!