Thousands of members of the armed forces responded to Hurricane Sandy, and some of them are retired military still recovering from battle injuries you may never see. In Part 2 of his series, NY1's Michael Herzenberg introduces us to a veteran struggling with the invisible wounds of war.
Sandra Lee keeps the inner workings on track for the nonprofit HEART 9/11 as workers fix up homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
"Doing this kind of work with HEART 9/11 has really help me get back to that core part of me that I felt like I lost because of everything I did and that I had to do while I was deployed,"
The former Army Staff Sergeant spent much of her time in Iraq managing the rebuilding of schools. But she also saw combat, and repeated roadside bombs caused brain injuries.
"Right now, I'm definitely much more functional than I used to be," she said.
She struggles with lags in her speech and deals with memory problems. She also suffers from high anxiety and depression because of post traumatic stress disorder from a sexual assault by a member of the military and from what she had to do in the war zone.
"I had to protect myself and protect my team," she said. "When you come to a situation when you have to make that split decision, and you see family members come out crying and screaming."
She can't forget, and questions herself.
"That's hard," she said. "You're taught not to kill, not to murder, but we were defending our own lives."
She carries on, with a service dog at her side. She now helps an organization founded by those who responded to the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. In fact, the attacks motivated her to enlisted in the Army.
"It feels good to know that I'm helping others," she said. "But in this whole process, it's helping me in my healing and helping me just push, push through life."
HEART 9/11 is among the organizations now working to rebuild Sandra Lee a home in Connecticut. It's expected to be finished this summer.