Full Story

On January 18, 2007, Matthew was on patrol with his unit in Haditha, Iraq, when a bomb planted by an insurgent exploded inside a culvert directly underneath his feet. Shrapnel hit his eyes and blinded him instantly. “My life went from light to dark very quickly,” he later said. His fellow Marines in Echo Company didn’t think he would live much longer after being evacuated to safety. He may have been out of combat, but he was still in great danger from his injuries. He woke up from a coma three weeks later to wounds that were worse than he’d ever contemplated.

At Bethesda Naval Medical Center, he learned that his left leg had been amputated above the knee and that his right leg was gone below the knee. He had several other life-threatening injuries, in addition to having lost his sight. The experience, he later said, “challenged my will to survive. I was 20 years old, fighting for my life.” Here’s how Matthew describes that time:

During the earliest days of my recovery, I suffered from depression and guilt because I truly believed the only two ways I wanted to return from Iraq were either with my [Marine] brothers or in a casket…. I felt like I let my brothers down…. I prayed every day to wake up and see my beautiful wife and our kids, yet I’d wake up seeing nothing but darkness.

Then Matthew had an insight that got him started on the road to recovery: “I never wanted the insurgent who placed the bomb inside the culvert to ever get the sense of victory that he defeated me. I realized many things during those early days, but the one thing that kept recurring was this: ‘I am a United States Marine, and I am not a quitter.’ I felt if I quit this new battle, then I was quitting on my Marine Corps, my family, and myself. With me quitting on myself, the insurgent would get what he wanted in defeating an American.”

Matthew’s insight was reinforced in an unexpected way. One day in therapy while Matthew was putting on his prosthetic legs, his physical therapist told him, “Matt, you don’t see it, but every day people watch you walking around and realize, ‘If he can do it, I can.’”

Not many people survive from stepping on a bomb. Now, Matthew Bradford is inspiring people with his courage and determination as he walks using prosthetic legs and the navigation skills he has acquired without sight. As Matthew says, “If you believe it’s too hard, or that you can’t do it, you’ve already failed yourself and the mission. I never truly understood how strong I was until I was tested. And if I can inspire one person a day, my mission for the day is accomplished!”

If you would like to learn more about Matthew’s story or to book him for a speaking engagement, click here.

Donate in Observation of Blinded Veterans Day

As a proud BVA member, Matthew Bradford is a shining example of the new lease on life that you help blinded veterans discover through your generous support of BVA and its programs. On March 28 join us as we mark the nationwide observance of Blinded Veterans Day and the 79th anniversary of BVA’s founding in 1945.