Cynthia Lefever starts every speech with the same introduction.
"Hello, my name is Cynthia Lefever, and my special talent is pestering and badgering," she says. "I will continue to pester and badger until I get an answer or see progress or change."
Three months after the deployment of her son, Army Specialist Rory Dunn, to Iraq, Lefever received the phone call that no mother wants. Her son's unarmored vehicle was blown up near the city of Fallujah.
She left her social worker's job in Renton and spent a year by her son's bedside at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The experience has made her an advocate for returning veterans to get the care they really need -- of the quality she's seen the military try to withhold.
"There's a desire by the Department of Defense to get people out of Walter Reed Hospital," she says. "They would offer them a one-time bonus of $30,000 to $40,000. These were young soldiers who had no budget experience and thought that was a lot. I'd talk to them. I hope I made a difference."
Since returning home, Lefever has lobbied the Veterans Administration to better train staff dealing with sufferers of Tramatic Brain Injury (which her son suffers from) and Post Tramatic Stress Syndrome. Last summer, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray recognized her with the Golden Tennis Shoe Award given to Washingtonians who advocate on behalf of others.
As for her son Rory, doctors gave Dunn only a two percent chance of survival. But the young man now lives on his own despite a patch on his eye and deafness in one ear.