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The Soldier and the Squirrel introduces children to the Purple Heart

through a loving story of a friendship between a newly wounded soldier

and Rocky the squirrel with his backyard friends. This story began as a

blog during my first year in bed after my incident. With much

encouragement, it is now a book and has been placed in the

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. Please watch the video

on the About page to learn for the Soldier & Rocky are changing children's

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Saturday
Feb192011

Tempered Steel & Kids Rock

Tempered Steel, unites wounded soldiers with the public through dialogue, building relationships between our next generation and our wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. This week was a very special week for us. Two new speakers joined us, both Iraq Star warriors, sharing their stories of survival with students in Southern California.

Gunnery Sergeant Tony Lino was blown up in Iraq...twice. He was an EOD, Explosives Ordinance Detonator, otherwise known as a Hurt Locker guy. We met when my family's foundation, Iraq Star, reconstructed his teeth, and we have been family ever since. As Tempered Steel grows, it is becoming a breeding ground of healing for wounded soldiers as well as our Iraq Star warriors. Wounded troops from all around are beginning to hear about the opportunity to teach our youth about the sacrifices made for our country by simply sharing their stories of survival and blessings from their trials. The students are not only able to connect with our military on a personal level, but in a way which encourages support for our men and women who serve and an appreciation for the sacrifices made for our freedoms. Tony spoke to sixty fourth graders at Hesby Oaks Elementary two days ago. It was his first time speaking for Tempered Steel. Today the children are still wearing the medals he gave out, the bracelets, and one little girl is sitting in her seat today knowing an American soldier who cares. This little girl tugged on his jacket after he spoke that day and whispered,"My mom and dad are from Iraq. My uncle was an Iraqi soldier. He was shot in the heart."

JR Martinez is an actor, but he's a soldier first. He's a wounded warrior blown up in an explosion in 2003 when his Humvee hit a landmine. As his three fellow soldiers were ejected from the vehicle, JR was the driver, and watched the skin melt on his hands, in that seat, for ten minutes before they could get him out.

Almost three years at BAMC, and over thirty surgeries later, he thought his life was over...until his mother said something to him that would ultimately affect millions of lives around the world. She said, son, you have been given a gift. Now, for the rest of your life, you will know that people will love you for who you are, and not what you look like. It is YOU that will matter and can make a difference in this world.He now speaks for Tempered Steel, connecting with youths on a raw level, telling his story of survival and the power they hold in determining the direction of their lives amidst the biting reality of uncertainty.

This week JR spoke to a packed theater at Valencia High School for our organization, Tempered Steel. As many times as I've seen our troops speak for us, it never ceases to amaze me how the heart just aches and tears well in the eyes, even though I know their stories. You see, JR was finished after 45 minutes, but he stayed three hours. The kids didn't leave. After he was done, we were set to pack up to go, and a crowd of students encircled him, thanked him, and many went tot heir next class. There was a group however who needed more. Their hearts were aching for everything real, for the connection to linger and possibly heal their own wounds they carried inside. A young girl who wished to be a dancer who's dream was crushed by surgeries, a young girl with dark black hair and black eyeliner covering an absolutely beautiful face, hiding her pain of exclusion and isolation. A boy who sat throughout the speech with his hood over his head, his face in a staid expression walked up to him, tears in his eyes, he reached out his arms to JR. JR looked his way expecting to respond to his words, but all the boy could say was, "Man, please, I need a hug. I have to hug you. I have to thank you for being here, you have changed my life, you have no idea."

We sat in the theater for hours, talking about life, JR inspiring each student as he answered their regrets in life with encouragement, with hope, with the heart of Tempered Steel.

Here is a little summary of what we do:

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