Badly wounded in Iraq, Lt. j.g. Jason Redman, a Navy SEAL, thought he would die, but did not. Later, he dealt with the emotions of well-meaning hospital visitors. He’s faced 37 surgeries and considerable therapy.
Yet, it was some of the more-mundane indignities of his recovery that gave Redman an idea. Medical devices necessary for healing did not allow for normal clothing. When he was in public, people didn’t understand what they were seeing.
“Most people did not associate my injuries with things that had occurred on the battlefield,” Redman said, explaining many wrongly assumed he was injured in a car or motorcycle accident, “and I thought that was a travesty at the time.”
So, he created a solution for those like him.
Redman founded Wounded Wear, a nonprofit organization that provides clothing to wounded warriors. The clothes identify the wearers as having received their disfigurements in the nation’s service, and are altered, as needed, to accommodate the owners’ unique needs.
“One part was creating the custom clothing to make their life easier,” he said. “The other part was creating fashionable clothing that raised national awareness that the guys and gals could wear that would be a badge of honor that would say, ‘I was scarred so that others may live free,’ and other people would see it and see their injuries and it would dawn on them that, ‘Wow, this guy or this gal got wounded for my freedom.’”
Redman will be at the Renaissance Hotel in Baton Rouge on Nov. 9 as part of the second Never Quit, Never Forget gala, which raises funds for organizations that support wounded veterans or their family members. In addition to Wounded Wear, the gala will support Special Ops Survivors, which assists the families of special operations personnel killed in combat.
On Sept. 13, 2007, Redman led an operation to capture an al-Qaida target in Iraq when he was shot twice in the left elbow and once in the face by machine gun fire.
“There definitely came a point where I didn’t think I was coming home,” Redman said by telephone from his home in the Virginia Beach, Va., area. “I started to lose feeling. The world was closing in on me. I really had a defining moment — I honestly feel like it was a spiritual moment. I called out to God and feel like I got a second chance.
“It was nothing short of miraculous. I went from not being able to move a muscle to, when the medevac helicopter came in, I got out and I walked 75 yards and I got in on my own power.”
Redman received six transfusions over the next few days and was flown to Bethesda Naval Medical Center. His nose and a cheekbone were gone. Some family members burst into tears when they saw him.
“I just told my wife never again,” he said. “Nobody was going to come in my room like that. I was proud of the wounds I got. I was proud of the service I gave to my country and I wasn’t going to look back.”
At Redman’s insistence, his wife, Erica, got a piece of bright orange poster paper, on which he wrote the following, which was placed on his hospital room door:
“ATTENTION to all who enter here. If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere. The wounds I received, I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love. I am incredibly tough and will make a full recovery. What is full? That is the absolute utmost physically my body has the ability to recover. Then I will push that about 20 percent further through sheer mental tenacity. This room you are about to enter is a room of fun, optimism, and intense rapid regrowth. If you are not prepared for that, go elsewhere. From: The Management.”
It became so popular that it has been framed and remains at the hospital.
“It really has become a mantra for the wounded,” Redman said. “Most wounded warriors you meet have that same spirit. I just happened to capture it in writing.”
Wounded Wear has given clothing to more than 800 veterans. Each one receives a kit that includes a rolling luggage bag with “Wounded Wear” embroidered on the outside, four T-shirts, a Polo-style shirt with a Purple Heart and Wounded Wear logo embroidered on it, lounge shorts, workout shorts and a medium-weight winter jacket with artwork. Recipients who can’t fit the clothes around their medical devices have them tailored at no charge.
Some of the clothing artwork is only for the wounded. Other clothes are sold online (http://www.woundedwear.org) to raise money.
Wounded Wear encourages wounded veterans to get back into their communities, Redman said.
“That’s why one of our key slogans now is, ‘Helping warriors rediscover the hero within,’” he said. “We want to help them be proud of their scars and be proud of what happened to them to move forward in life and achieve good things once again. We want the average American to recognize those things, to see them and help them with that recovery, even if it’s as simple as walking up to them and saying, ‘Thank you. I really appreciate your sacrifice. I value my freedoms.’ ”
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