By Pat Ciarrocchi
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Healing from the wounds of war has been challenging for many veterans.
At Drexel University, an exhibit created by 10 artists reveals how healing from combat doesn’t have to be solitary journey.
On this Veterans Day, CBS 3’s Pat Ciarrocchi takes us inside with a former soldier who understands both the pain and the triumph.
Iraq. May, 2007.
The world changed for former Army Staff Sergeant Thomas Lee.
“My vehicle was struck by a buried IED,” Lee said.
Lost that day — two soldiers and Lee’s right leg.
“The only reason I lost my leg, was because I was postured to fire out of my vehicle,” he said.
To shield children in the line of fire.
“He’s not hiding anything. It’s raw, but in an exquisitely compelling way,” Drexel University professor Karen Curry said.
Today Lee’s story is one of healing as he walks with Curry through The Joe Bonham Project, part of the Great Works Symposium imaging war.
“It shows that war does not end at the front lines. There is a battle and there are consequences of the battle,” Curry said.
In today’s wars the consequences include healing from the lost limbs and rattled brains.
“You get fully exposed when you’re in an environment like this. So if you’re bashful, you’re in the wrong joint,” Lee said.
At 38, this soldier navigates his life on a steel leg that can do more than allow him to walk.
He can run.
The Army 10-Miler was his first.
“The day I ran across the finish line of the Army 10-Miler was a special moment,” he said.
But Lee is all Army – so a triathlon at Olympic distance was a mission, waiting.
“I have a cycling leg and a running leg, so in transition that’s where I do that exchange,” he said.
Transition time less than four minutes to change out his leg.
Lee has felt celebrated unlike his dad who served in Vietnam and walked a lonely road home.
“Coming home, through the San Francisco Airport being spat upon,” Lee said. “He was doing what his country told him to do and then, his country betrayed him when he came home.”
Veterans Day can open old wounds even when you think they are healed.
The exhibit is extended another week.
Tom Lee is now dedicated to helping veterans especially those who served in Vietnam find help with their health care. He says the V.A. is offering new options that older veterans should try.
Lee is always trying. When he ran the Army 10-Miler this summer he did an 8:40 pace on his blade.