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Def Leppard Helps Vets March to New Beat

Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen
CBS/The Early Show
They were the rock Gods of the 1980s, selling 65 million records, including the 10-time, multi-platinum album "Pyromania," which spent three-quarters of a year in the top 10 behind Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

Almost 30 years later, Def Leppard is still together and still touring. In fact, business is booming for these working class British rockers.

Early Show weather anchor and features reporter Dave Price had a chance to sit down with the rock legends and to learn how one band member's personal triumph over tragedy has transformed him into much more than just another heavy metal hero.

"Do you need a roadie? I'm looking for some job security," Price joked.

"Not with that shirt, dude," said Def Leppard guitarist Viv Campbell.

This past year, the band teamed up for "CMT Crossroads" with Taylor Swift and for the single, "Nine Lives" with Tim McGraw.

But "Nine Lives" could just as easily been the title of the band's autobiography. And drummer, Rick Allen, yes the one with one arm - can give the chapter and verse as to why.

"As the car rolled, the seat belt came undone. The seat belt took my arm and I left through the sunroof and landed in a field," said Allen.

It was that car accident along a narrow stretch of road in rural England on New Year's Eve 1984, that cost Allen one of the limbs on which he built a multimillion-dollar career.

"In that field, did you say to yourself, 'I lost my arm?'" Price asked.

"Apparently... one of the first things I said when I stood up was 'I'm a drummer and I've lost my arm,'" Allen recalled.

He should have lost his life. But lying in the hospital, Allen was determined to make the beat go on.

"I started tapping my feet on this piece of foam that was at the bottom of the bed and then I realized that all the basic rhythms that I'd ever learned growing up I could play," Allen said.

Using a custom-made electronic drum kit, he taught himself to play all over again.

"Everything that I used to play with my left arm, I'm now playing with my left foot," he added.

And to this day, he continues to inspire his bandmates who never considered replacing him.

"The fact that he's still here and he gets up on that stage every night and does that - (mimicking Allen's one arm in the air) - he is the icon of Def Leppard," Campbell said. "We're all brothers."

But recently, Allen has been an inspiration to another band of brothers - wounded warriors returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan who have also suffered life-changing traumas.

"When I sit down with the troops, I talk about celebrating uniqueness as opposed to comparing yourself to yourself how you used to be," Allen said.

Through a foundation he calls Raven Drum, combat veterans like Sgt. First Class Renato Garza get more than just free tickets to a concert. They get a chance to open their hearts and to bare their soul.

"We, the soldiers, consider you guys our heroes. And I'd love it if you accepted this," Garza said to Allen as he presented him with an award. The two then shared an emotional embrace.

"So he transformed himself tonight from rock icon to what?" Price asked Garza.

"A friend," Garza replied.

Friends who have changed each other's lives.

"It's a gift," Allen said. "And the fantastic thing about Def Leppard is this is a wonderful vehicle to inspire people that are going through some of their darkest moments. It's a huge reward."