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article imageBlind, double amputee Marine Corporal makes history

By Michael Bearak     Apr 10, 2010 in Lifestyle
Matthew Bradford always wanted to serve in the Marines, he even said he would keep signing up as many times as the Marines would allow. Bradford lived up to that commitment and on Wednesday re-wrote history as the first blind, double-amputee to re-enlist.
Matthew Bradford grew up in Kentucky and Virginia and wanted to a Marine. During his first tour in Iraq that dream seemed to come to an end on January 18, 2007 when Bradford was trying to clear roadside bombs in the Al Anbar Provence when one of the bombs went off right under him.
Bradford went to the Center for the Intrepid where he learned to walk with prosthetic legs as well as how to navigate without site. Bradford learned to count steps everywhere he was walking on the third-floor of the center. Bradford's mother noted how the Center for the Intrepid had become a safety zone for him.
Bradford's new role in the Marines is going to be working with other wounded solders at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
During the ceremony Wednesday, the Marines honorably discharged Bradford giving him a few moments as a civilian to say what he wanted before re-enlisting him again. Bradford's only words to Lt. Col. David Barnes as a civilian, "Sign me up, Sir!"
Even former President George W. Bush noted the dedication of Bradford when he first visited the Center for the Intrepid as he watched him scale the 35 foot climbing wall. Bradford also participated in the Marine Corps Marathon using his hand bike and receiving verbal directions called out to him. Last year he was able to complete the "Bataan Memorial Death March" at White Sands, New Mexico. The "Bataan Memorial Death March" is a 10-mile hike across desert terrain.
When asked where he got his determination, he quickly credited his years in youth sports playing football and basketball for his never-give-up attitude. Bradford's mother summarized her son this way, “He just doesn't like the word ‘No.' He's lost a lot, but he's gained a lot.”
While his mother admitted that it was hard to watch her son, who was promoted to corporal on Friday at the age of 23, re-enlist in the Marines she also realized that he is doing something that he is dedicated to and knows that he can help people who have been injured just like him.
Bradford hopes that he will be able to help other Marine's cope with the angers, struggles, depression and frustrations that come with the recovery process. “I'm paving the road for the rest of them who want to stay in but think they can't,” Bradford said. “I'm ready to get back to work.”
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