We all raised our right hands and swore an oath to our country for different reasons. By taking that oath we all chose service, and understood, at least partially, the potential dangers and sacrifices that come with serving.

But when you’ve sacrificed your legs and your vision how could continuing to serve out of uniform help you heal?

Matthew Bradford, Corporal USMC Retired, has endured and persevered through the cascading effects of serving, being injured, and finding a new mission outside of the Marine Corps.

Speaking with Matthew, it’s almost impossible not to feel the enthusiasm and positivity he has for his new life and work. In Matthew’s words, “I always tell people just because I have two prosthetic legs and no vision, I still have my feet facing forward and I’ve got a 20/20 outlook on life.

Like many veterans, Matthew’s story was at least partially written by an IED blast. But he made the choice as to how to face its effects.

Losing Sight

“The last voice I heard was actually from my senior drill instructor, a platoon sergeant with QRF. He said, ‘You’ll be fine Bradford.’”

Matthew goes on to further describe the terrible uncertainty of the moments following the blast. “I closed my eyes and I didn’t know if I was alive or dead or what was going on [then] because I couldn’t see anything. But I could hear everything going around me.”

Matthew’s unit, Second Battalion, Third Marines, was operating in Northern Haditha and had been in nearly continuous contact with the enemy since arriving in-country.

On January 18, 2007, Matthew was the walking point for his squad like he was on all their patrols.

“I saw a white bag under the biggest tree in the palm grove and it was suspicious to me, so I tried to let everyone know. I turned back around, I looked down and there was a ditch running perpendicular to the road I was on. I saw the command wires go inside the pipe under the road — and it exploded.”

That was the last image Matthew ever saw.

Three weeks later in Bethesda Naval Hospital Matthew was brought out of a coma and into his new reality. Coupled with finding out that he had lost both legs and his vision, Matthew also learned that the Marines he loved and trusted were still in the fight.

Without his mobility, vision, or his team, Matthew was in a new kind of fight with an entirely different enemy. Himself.

To read the rest of this story please visit The Bar X Project.

Authored by Daniel Jones. Daniel joined the Marine Corps Reserves in 2005 while attending the Virginia Military Institute. As a Combat Engineer with Bravo Co. 4th CEB, he deployed to Iraq in 2008 and Afghanistan in 2010. He was medically retired in 2014 following injuries sustained from an IED blast in Afghanistan. Currently, he is living in Richmond, VA and working in the forestry industry while exploring a writing career.