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National FOX News Piece on Tempered Steel

Wounded Veterans Share Their Stories With Students, Community

By Laura Prabucki

Published May 29, 2011

Any time you think you've had a bad day, remember Tony Lino.

The Marine gunnery sergeant has been blown up and cheated death, twice. Lino has dedicated his life to our country, serving as an explosives ordinance detonator, or "hurt locker" guy. He's deployed five times, once to Afghanistan and four times to Iraq.

It was during two of his tours in Iraq that he almost lost his life, first in 2006 and then in 2009, both by improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

“I just felt like everything, like my face, wasn't going to be there anymore," Lino said.

Now he's sharing his story with others, the story behind his scars. Lino is part of a group called Tempered Steel, co-founded by Army Sgt. Scott Stephenson and his mother after the soldier was seriously wounded and disfigured in Iraq.

The wounded warriors tell their harrowing tales of survival to young students and other groups. Their mission: break down barriers in hopes that other injured vets will be embraced and accepted when they come home.

"It's about developing an ease of dialogue, a foundation of respect and a union between the wounded warriors and our civilians,” said Micaela Bensko, president of Tempered Steel.

Lino shared his harrowing story with Fox News.

"I couldn't even blink because I could feel all the dirt and shrapnel underneath both of my eyelids and underneath my eyes, so every time I blinked it felt like razor blades were cutting my eyelids," Lino said.

Dealing with something so devastating might cause some people to lose hope and give up, but Lino is a true fighter and says the experience has made him stronger.

He's not alone.

Army infantryman J.R. Martinez also shares his story through Tempered Steel. The 27-year old suffered burns covering more than 40 percent of his body and needed more than 30 surgeries after the Humvee he was driving ran over a land mine in Iraq.

"It's changed my life for the better -- completely," says Martinez, who along with being a motivational speaker also stars on the soap opera "All My Children."

“It’s given me an amazing insight to life," he said. "It's given me an amazing insight to myself, which ultimately allows me to be a better son, a better friend, a better family member."

Martinez's message is also helping to inspire others. He recently spoke to a group of seventh-graders at Rio Norte Junior High School in Santa Clarita, Calif. The students say their first impressions of Martinez were wrong and that while they find his story sad, they're impressed with how positive he is.

"I think the most important thing it taught me was, no matter what happens, to always take the better in life that you can and move on with things," Michaela Banyi said.

“He was definitely very positive, very faithful," said Omar Espinoza. “He said somehow his experience helped him to be more successful.”

For Martinez, that's a mission accomplished.

"It gives you something bigger in life that you never would expect," Martinez said. "What Tempered Steel has done for a lot of these guys is given them a platform and given them an opportunity to share their story that they potentially would not have been able to create on their own." That opportunity "is big, is very big," he said.

To learn more about Tempered Steel and how you can help these brave men and women in sharing their message, check out

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