G.I. Jobs Latest Issues

APR 2018

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54 G.I. JOBS | APRIL 2018 | GIJOBS.COM explosion, Bradford was at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where his right leg was amputated. Ab- dominal trauma caused by shrapnel damaged his small intestine, requiring another surgery. Over the next 18 months, Bradford struggled to recover from his injuries and find a way forward. "It was emotionally the worst thing in the world to wake up in the hospital and find out that I had no legs," he recalls. "I was devas- tated." REGAINING HIS FOOTING During the long and difficult recovery process, Bradford initially fell into a depres- sion. He ultimately found solace and encouragement in the visits he received from a fellow Marine. "Getting that support from a fellow Marine was so important. He would just come and sit and talk with me about all sorts of things. He didn't treat me like I was broken," explained Bradford. He drew strength from his family and friends, as well as his doctors, nurses, physical therapists and other medical staff. "My physical therapist was there for me as I was learning to walk, and he said he would catch me if I fell. Hearing and knowing that meant the world to me." PAYING IT FORWARD Bradford says he eventually realized that he was only 20 years old, still had his entire life ahead of him, and that his injuries didn't need to define him or limit him. In fact, he says the catastrophic injuries that nearly ended his life have ultimately given his life purpose. "When I joined the Ma- rines, I thought my purpose was to protect our freedoms. But after my experiences, I realized that my purpose is to inspire people, and I draw my motivation from inspir- ing others to do things that they never thought they'd be able to do." Bradford's doing a darn good job of achieving that purpose, too. He's a sought-after speaker who gives talks to fellow veterans, as well as at schools, churches and even the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. He's also spoken in front of a sold-out crowd at Wildcats' Rupp Arena, where he received a stand- ing ovation. Hundreds of followers on Bradford's In- stagram, Twitter and Face- book accounts regularly share his posts and express how much he inspires and amazes them. Dozens of newspapers and magazines have covered his story. For Matt, this means he's doing his job. "If I can inspire one person a day, then I feel like my job is complete," Bradford says. BROTHERLY LOVE Though Bradford had already made incredible sacrifices for his country, he missed the brotherhood that came with being in the military. On April 7, 2010, the Purple Heart recipi- ent became the first blind double-amputee in the his- tory of the Marine Corps to reenlist. For the next two years, he was stationed at the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he offered support and friendship to other wounded veterans. He medically retired in 2012. BACK TO SCHOOL Not one to rest on his lau- rels, Bradford kept check- ing off his bucket list. Last May he graduated from the University of Kentucky, a school he was devoted to following and support- ing his entire life, having grown up in "Big Blue Nation." With dual majors in media arts/studies and his- tory, Bradford had originally set his sights on becoming a sports broadcaster. However, last August he got a two-year fellowship po- sition through the Wounded Warrior Fellowship program with Kentucky's Sixth Con- gressional District's Veterans' Coalition. The coalition was established to provide a forum for veterans to offer their input and advice regard- ing legislation and military matters. "We go out to VFWs and American Legions and we talk about legislation through the VA and other issues that affect them. It offers them a chance to be heard. Since getting this position, I've kind of switched over to focusing on a job that involves veteran outreach. I just really want to find something that I love to do that gives me purpose and lets me help others." A CELEBRATION OF LIFE There are times he gets frus- trated, he admits, but Brad- ford relies on his family and friends, as well as a remark- ably positive attitude, to keep moving forward. Each year, Bradford marks the day of the explosion, celebrating his "Alive Day." "I met my wife in 2010, and ever since, she has always been there for me. She's amaz- ing," says Bradford. "I do have those moments where I'm pissed off as I'm putting my legs on in the morning, but then my little angel (Brad- ford's youngest daughter) runs in to see me and it all melts away," he adds. "I don't just sit down and feel sorry for myself. I keep myself busy and remember that my 'Alive Day' gave me my life purpose."

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