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Through musical portrayals of a Soldiers enlistment, basic combat training and the rigors of overseas deployments, the U.S. Army Soldier Show came to Joint Base Lewis-McChord Aug. 10 with one familiar message at heart.
With its 2012 theme, Army Strong, the song-and-dance production highlighted the attributes of Soldiers and their Families qualities like resilience, perseverance, bravery and mental toughness.
Our mission is a morale mission, but the Army Strong theme just wants to go a little bit further building the morale of todays Soldiers, letting them know that, hey, were there with you, stage manager Cpl. Jeremy Gaynor said. Its encouraging them and letting them know that this is what we do, and this is what we love to do and Hooah!
But for one of the shows cast members, Spc. Tiffani Lindstrom, the message of encouragement and inspiration is deeply personal.
As Lindstrom, full of energy onstage, belted out the lyrics of Etta James At Last, few might have believed that just four years ago she was relearning how to comb her hair, to eat and to recognize her closest Family members painstakingly putting together the pieces of her past one day at a time.
The fuel supply specialists life took a tragic turn during a yearlong deployment to Egypt in 2007. While in Nueba delivering fuel, her supervisor lost control of their truck when the brakes went out.
He ordered Lindstrom to bail from the vehicle, although the two were traveling 70 miles per hour downhill and carrying 3,800 gallons of aviation fuel. She hit the ground and went unconscious.
Nine hours later, she came to and walked away. Her supervisor also jumped but didnt survive.
Lindstrom had broken her left arm and lost some of the skin from her forehead and face, which doctors replaced with grafts.
She was transported to a hospital in Israel, and on to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where, for the next two years, she worked to regain the skills and memories shed always taken for granted.
I had to learn how to do everything again little things that we take for granted, she said.
Lindstrom suffered a traumatic brain injury and was fighting her way back through what doctors called post-concussion syndrome.
She had forgotten that her father had passed away, forgot one of her two sisters and thought her 12-year-old daughter was 4.
But through constant Family support frequent phone calls from her daughter and songs to remind her of experiences she recovered.
For some reason, I can remember things through song, Lindstrom said, a performer since elementary school. They (Family) were constantly always singing to me and telling me I could do it. Everyone else said I couldnt; they said I could.
No one told Lindstrom she would get her memory back, she said. No one told her she had any chance of remaining in the Army.
But in early May, when the Soldier Show travelled to Fort Stewart, Ga., her home station at the time of the accident, her doctors sat in the first three rows cheering her on.
I literally walked away from that accident, she said during the shows JBLM stopover. I wasnt paralyzed. Its just nothing but God that Im here. I feel theres a purpose for me to be here. ... Every day I live it like its my last.
Lindstrom, who also performed in a version of Lady Gagas Edge of Glory, an original cast song called Army Strong and I know it, and other numbers, tried out last year for the Soldier Show at her supervisors recommendation. She applied but didnt take it seriously.
Theyre so talented I didnt think I was talented enough to get into the show, but I put the application in, they accepted, and here I am, she said. Its definitely a dream come true to sing to people, especially to Soldiers.
One of the first things Lindstrom tells others is that shes lucky to be alive. Shes not the same person she was more than five years ago still welcoming back old memories nearly every day and writing them down to ensure they never again depart.
I try to be an inspiration for others tell people that life goes on, to be strong, that anything you go through, you can make it, she said. Just push and keep going forward.
Shes a strong individual because of what shes been through, in her personal life and her Army life, Gaynor said, who sees her as a living example of Army Strong."
When you see her on stage, she brings that fierceness to where its like, Ive been through all these things, but Ive overcome them at the same time. That fierceness comes across on the stage, he said.
Lindstrom fought to continue serving in the Army during a medical evaluation board process that determined her fitness to stay. She cried to evaluators, she said.
I believed that I could do it, she said. I really do love the Army. Its been good to me. I love what we do; I love to serve.
She eventually won her battle. After she finishes with the Soldiers Show, her term of active duty service expires and she will join a Kentucky Reserve unit, though her decision to leave active duty isnt necessarily final.
After this show, its not going to stop for me, she said. Im going to perform somewhere, whether its in a school or a gym. Im still going to continue to sing; Im not going to stop.
Two years ago, she said, she dreamed of being on stage. Today, that dream is alive and well.