CPL MATTHEW R. BRADFORD, USMC (RET) HONORED WITH SPIRIT OF THE CORPS AWARD
Established in 2014 by the Marine Corps Coordinating Council of Kentucky (MCCCK) Board of Directors to recognize those individuals who have demonstrated fortitude, courage, or an exceptional will to live, despite great hardships and/or suffering. Presented when appropriate at the exclusive discretion of the MCCCK Board of Directors, to individuals, whose demonstrable actions have embodied and/or exemplified Honor, Courage and Commitment, the core values of the United States Marine Corps. The presentation of an original sculpture of the Marine Corps emblem (Eagle, Globe and Anchor) by Mark Austin Byrd of Dallas, Texas, was made to Cpl Matthew R. Bradford, USMC (Ret), of Nicholasville, Kentucky, at the annual Kentucky Marine Corps Birthday Breakfast at the Thoroughbred Club of America on November 10, 2014, at Lexington, Kentucky.
Honor: Like many young Americans, he was profoundly affected by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on our nation and upon graduation from high school in 2005, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Following recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina, he underwent specialized infantry training at Camp Geiger, North Carolina and was subsequently assigned as a rifleman with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Like many Marines of the past, who had gone before him harm’s way, he deployed with his unit in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, not questioning our national interests in this pre-emptive military incursion, as many of his countrymen did, but rather honoring his oath of service to our nation.
Courage: Relying on the mental, moral and physical strength ingrained in all Marines to help them face adversity and overcome fear, he boldly confronted horrendous injuries sustained when he stepped on a hidden improvised explosive device, while on a combat patrol on January 18, 2007 in Haditha, Iraq. Shrapnel immediately entered both of his eyes, blinding him. His left leg was severed by the force of the blast and his right leg was later amputated. He also suffered a broken right hand, resulting in permanent damage and limited use, as well as shrapnel wounds to his intestines. Following his immediate evacuation by Navy corpsmen, he was transported to Germany and then on to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he spent three weeks in a medically induced coma and underwent multiple surgeries.
When initially confronted with the extent and severity of his injuries, he understandably questioned his will to live, but drawing on his experiences in athletics as a youth and his courageous attitude imbued in him by his Marine Corps training, he quietly resolved to recover as fully as possible and to continue serving his nation.
Commitment: Following three difficult years of surgeries and arduous rehabilitation, through which he learned to walk again with prosthetic limbs and to function independently without sight, he refused to allow his injuries to inhibit his desire to pursue life to the fullest. With special equipment adaptations, he successfully pursued recreational interests such as surfing, jet skiing, rock climbing, water skiing, and scuba diving, as well as hiking and hand cycle participation in the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon, with only directional assistance. Realizing that he had much to give to others, who were dealing with similar debilitating combat related injuries, he petitioned the Marine Corps to continue his active duty service, and on April 7, 2010, he made Marine Corps history, by becoming the first blind double amputee to re-enlist, in a ceremony held in San Antonio, Texas. Despite a desire to return to his unit in Iraq, he was assigned to the Wounded Warrior Battalion East, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he committed himself fully to counseling and encouraging others seeking to overcome their injuries, until his 2012 retirement. Focusing on his abilities, rather than his disabilities, he is pursuing higher education with aspirations of becoming a sportscaster. His long and difficult struggle to regain his health, aided by a remarkable positive attitude, have been an inspiration not only to those who have been wounded in combat, but more importantly to all who have been privileged to have served in the United States Marine Corps.