John's Journal...

Wounded Warrior and American Hero - Thomas Lee

:What Is the Wounded Warrior Project

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Thomas Lee, Jr. is a Staff Sgt E-6. His latest tour was to Taji, Iraq. He also had a tour to Afghanistan and a brief tour in Balugi, Iraq. I met Thomas Lee on a deer hunt with Trijicon Optics (, a big supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project ( in Duvall County, Texas, at the Duval County Ranch ( Not very often do you get to meet a true American hero. However I believe once you hear Thomas’s story you’ll understand why I’ve defined him in this way. This is a soldier’s story.
Question: Can you tell us how the Wounded Warrior Project got started? 
Lee: A gentleman in Florida, who was an injured vet who was brought back to the States, started the program. When wounded soldiers leave Iraq or Germany, the only thing they have are the medical gowns they’re wearing. All your personal belongings are still in Iraq. This gentleman has started putting together backpacks for American wounded vets returning home. He puts T-shirts, shorts, underwear, toothpaste, toothbrushes and other clothing in a the backpack. Then as soon as a wounded soldier gets out of his bed and out of that gown, he’s got clothing to wear. (You can go to to learn more). Every wounded warrior gets a backpack. In Germany the PX’s are beginning to allow the wounded warriors to purchase clothing and other personal gear. Another project the Wounded Warrior Project has taken on is once helping vets to integrate back into society and learn to live with their injuries, onClick to enlargece they’re able to get out of the hospital and move around some. This group helps us learn that amputees, the severely injured and burn victims can still do many of the things we did before the war, even though many of us are using prosthetic legs and arms.
Here’s some of what I’ve done with the Wounded Warriors. I went on a surfing trip in San Diego. I’m originally from Hawaii, so surfing is a part of my life, and water sports in general are my favorite. I’ve also now been deer hunting, and I’ve been white-water rafting and rock climbing in Colorado. After this deer hunting trip, I go to Breckenridge, Colorado to ski. The folks with the Wounded Warrior Project have really been a tremendous help to me and the other wounded warriors who have returned home from war with some type of disability.

“My dad was a 28-year veteran with the army and deployed to Vietnam in the 1960s. I had formerly served in the Navy, and then after 9/11, I told my parents that I was returning to the military, specifically the army. When I told them I was going into the army, that triggered some hard emotions in them. My dad asked me what job I was going to do in the army, and I told him I would be an infantryman. He didn’t want me in the infantry because he’d been an infantryman in Vietnam, definitely not the best situation. He was in transportation as an infantryman and was running the back roads of Vietnam carrying personnel and equipment and being shot at just like the infantrymen on patrol. His unit was much like my unit in Iraq – running the roads and trying to keep the roads secure. Click to enlarge

Now, my dad was shot three times in Vietnam. But, when he came home, he was spat on, jeered at and saw those horrible signs that read, “go home, baby killers,” everyone he went. When he was wounded, he never received the kind of medical care that I did. Our military also learned from Vietnam. Our soldiers today are better trained and have better weapons than they did in Vietnam.  Too, my dad has been very surprised at the reception that our vets from Iraq are getting. We’ve come home to a grateful nation and a program like the Wounded Warrior Project, and my dad’s generation had come home to abuse.

Originally I’d joined the navy when I was 19-years old and served 4-1/2-years. I took a break from the service and became a civilian again. Then 9/11 happened. I looked at pictures of my nieces and nephews. Since we lived in Hawaii, they had to fly to go anywhere outside of Hawaii.  After seeing those planes fly into the World Trade Center on television, and knowing that my nieces would have to fly, I wanted to make sure that their lives weren’t affected like this. I wanted to help secure the country from terrorism. I didn’t want the same thing that happened to the people on the airplanes on 9/11 to happen to my nieces. So I decided to go into the army and become an infantryman because I wanted to be face to face with the enemies of our country.  I wanted to make a difference and confront the bad guys who were trying to destroy our lives, face to face.  When I came home, my dad was overjoyed to see the kind of treatment that me and the other wounded warriors were getting. Everyone I’ve met has told me how much they’ve  appreciated what we’ve done over there.  Click to enlarge

The people of San Antonio have wrapped their arms around us and embraced us. When I was in the hospital, people were always coming by and visiting and saying thank you. Even in Germany, there was a little family that came to visit me. The gentleman was stationed there. He, his wife and two children came by on a holiday when the kids were out of school and brought us handmade cards they’d crafted with crayons and colored pens. I realized that someone cared. 

After I complete my medical-evaluation board, I’ll be working on development and
implementation of new weapons systems for the military, particularly a soldier-warning system.  All the computers and software available to our soldiers in their vehicles is now available to our soldiers when they’re out of their vehicles. Then I’m returning to Iraq. My boys are there, and the fact that they are, and I’m not, digs in my soul. I know the danger they’re in, and I need to be there with them. Those guys are my family. We trained together for 1-1/2-years before deployment, and the whole time we were there, we were always together. These guys will go anywhere and do anything for you. The military has already told me I can go back - I probably just won’t be able to go on missions. Some people have said, “You’ve already been there.  You’ve been blown up. You’ve lost your right leg. Why will anyone in his right mind go back?”  Let’s say that you have a sibling, a brother or sister  that you’ve never been separated from and your sibling is in that environment. If you have the opportunity to go back, you will. And, that’s what I’m going to do.

Check back each day this week for more about "Wounded Warrior and American Hero - Thomas Lee"

Day 1: A Soldier’s Story
Day 2: A Hero Among Us
Day 3: Help Arrives
Day 4: Awake to Life
Day 5: What Is the Wounded Warrior Project


Entry 438, Day 5