By Jennifer Clampet
U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Public Affairs Office
The clash of gold chains and military coins dangled from Theresa Sareo’s neck as she walked toward the microphone.
The personal reminders of thanks and appreciation clanged softly as she took a few steps to the center of the floor.
The audience — wounded warriors, Soldiers, retirees and family members — watched as Sareo’s knee-length purple dress exposed a hard metal prosthetic leg.
“When I lost my leg, I thought my life and certainly my career were over,” said the singer, songwriter and amputee.
A recipient of a Walter Reed Medal of Strength and Courage — a medal given to wounded Soldiers — Sareo is not a Soldier.
Her life-altering trauma didn’t occur on a battlefield. Sareo was standing at a New York City crosswalk on June 11, 2002, when an SUV driven by an impaired driver hit her and severed her right leg.
“I almost died on that street corner,” she told the audience at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield Chapel, “but I didn’t.”
In the nearly eight years since her trauma, Sareo said she owns “the experience of the recovery from the accident.”
“In order to get well and to accept it, you find new ways to live your life,” said Sareo.
And for the past several years, as Soldiers began their returns from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, Sareo has strived to share her story with people affected by trauma just as she was.
“Sharing this continues to help me to heal,” she said.
And so explains the collection of military coins that Sareo wears around her neck. On her website, www.theresasareo.com, are pictures of her standing among crowds of Soldiers singing before crowds of onlookers. And after her first visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, she wrote a song called “Through a Soldier’s Eyes.”
“I’m drawn to the military community because you make the ultimate sacrifice,” Sareo told the audience May 3 at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield Chapel.
Wiesbaden was the first of seven stops on her European concert tour sponsored by the Warrior Transition Battalion Europe and the U.S. Army Europe Chaplains Corps.
“She is very inspiring,” said Spc. Donald Doxen, of Wiesbaden’s Warrior Transition Unit. “And I think she can relate to everyone. … When there’s tragedy, you can go through depression but you still have to live your life.”
Sareo said she still learns new things every time she tells her story.
“She gives the spirit a lot of our Soldiers need,” said Larry Comstock, a retired Army sergeant first class and Vietnam veteran.
“If you’re in the military, you come into different kinds of crises. A friend dying in your arms or losing a limb, it’s the same,” said Comstock. “It changes your life forever.”
And life-changing trauma can happen on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan or while you’re standing on a street corner in Manhattan waiting for the light to change.