Full Transcript is Below:
– Welcome to our April 2022 NFM Salute, I’m NFM TV’s Greg Sher. The Purple Heart is known as the oldest military award with its origin dating back to 1782 when it was then known as the Badge of Military Merit. Most of the 1.8 million Purple Heart recipients died in combat, but some managed to escape death and carry their wounds back with them to the United States. Our April Salute is one of the fortunate, retired Army Captain Matt Anderson joins us now from his home in Richmond, Virginia, with an inspiring tale of heroism. Matt, thank you for agreeing to be our NFM Salute for the month of April, and thank you for your service.
– Thanks for having me, appreciate it.
– It’s our pleasure. Your uncle was a Marine vet, both of your grandfathers fought in World War II, how much of an impetus was that to you serving?
– Well, it’s always been part of our lives, It was interesting hearing some of the stories that they would tell. I actually have the map from my grandfather who served in Pacific as a bomber pilot, I have his silk map framed here in the office, my uncle serving in Vietnam. It’s part of our family. And I certainly didn’t have to join. But when I was a freshman in college, I walked into my physiology class and we watched the towers fall on 9/11. And I just really wanted to do my part.
– In 2006, you set off on your first of three tours. This one was to Northern Iraq where you went for 15 months as a member of the sniper team. What do you remember about that experience?
– We learned a lot, and we learned that being lethal wasn’t always the most important part of the mission. And so we started doing more work on building the network of insurgents, and figuring out where financial, logistics and basically the orchestration of their leaderships. And by doing so we literally dismantled the Al-Qaeda network that was in Northern Iraq.
– Can you put into context for our audience, just how violent it was there at that time?
– We had 18 killed in action, I know that, IED’s, rockets and mortars were very common. Lot of unfortunate injuries that happened because of those, we were wounded a lot until my personal sniper team took out all of them.
– Being a sniper, you have to carry a lot of heavy machinery and ammunition with you. Just how cumbersome is that load?
– I carried a belt fed 240 Bravo machine gun that every hundred rounds is seven pounds. So, between 800 and 1200 rounds of that 1200 rounds being 84 pounds of rounds, a 32 pound machine gun, nine millimeter Beretta, mags, night vision, plates, extra batteries on top of extra batteries, water for three days, food for three days, it’s heavy. So, I can carry up to like 200 pounds of gear. Especially in the winter because you wouldn’t think it, but it actually gets quite cold, see snow, see hail. And then right before dawn and before the sun comes up, you have to strip down to nothing again because it’s going to swing all back up to a 100, 110 degrees, so you got a 90 degree temperature change in a couple hours.
– Being a sniper is also about taking human error out of the shot. How do you do that?
– Oh, a lot of that is pure training. It’s bolt manipulation. It’s going the range as much as you can. It’s knowing your loads. It’s knowing all the different conditions you can shoot in from humidity, temperature, wind direction, having all the accoutrements than we need in order to pull off a shot like that. All I’m trying to do is have a perfect trigger press, and then watch my round in flight. And then if I have to make a correction.
– So you made it out of your first tour unscathed but your second tour, you were not so fortunate. You headed to Afghanistan in July of 2010. And just a couple of months later on October 16th, 2010, you were hit, you were wounded. That is a day I know you will never forget. Walk us through it. What happened on that day?
– This is my first deployment to Afghanistan. My first as an Infantry Platoon Leader. We knew the environment we’re going into was very potentially lethal. I had a platoon of 31 and in the first 20 days I had 14 wounded. And another 20 days we’re down another 14 guys. We were left with three. What happened for my injury was that I got overly confident in a pretty ugly spot. There’s a town called Jeleran. It’s right off the Arghandab River. And I’d walked through it a couple days before and walked through just to check out where we were going to be that night to see where the rooftops were. But I stepped on a landmine, basically got thrown into a wall about eight feet away. My mine sweeper stepped on a second one. They were both buried too deep to have the sheering of force that takes the leg off. It’s basically like being hit the heel with a jackhammer. And so I’m very fortunate to be here.
– 24 surgeries, so on one hand, yes, you’re extremely fortunate. On the other hand, you are certainly carrying those wounds with you to this day. What has that prevented you from doing?
– There’s pros and cons that what I have versus a prosthetic. And so, even when I was still active duty, so 2013 or 14, I flew back from Colorado to Walter Reed to talk about cutting the leg off. And just because I thought there’d be a benefit to having a prosthetic versus what I have currently. And I can still sprint and run the exoskeleton that I have. It just hurts a lot.
– When you came back from the battlefield wounded, you had a really pleasant surprise awaiting you at the airport, your mother, your father and your brother were there to greet you, and your mom had some of your homemade favorites.
– As we were flying in from Germany from Landstuhl, we’re coming into Andrew’s Air Force Base. We’re going to offload the most critically wounded to Walter Reed. Only a couple of us are going down to Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio and mom, dad, brother, all came on board. My mom had two apple pies and a baker’s dozen of her oatmeal raisin cookies that are awesome.
– So most people having endured what you endured would be done. They would call it a day and not wish to go back to another combat zone, but you are not most people. So, you had your sights on being an Army Captain and you were not going to back off until you could accomplish that but there was one major thing in your way. You can’t be an Army Captain without graduating from college. And as we talked about before you had left college just a wee bit early. So, what did you do and why in the world would you put yourself back in a war zone?
– My own unit 227 Wolf Hounds from Hawaii was about to redeploy to Afghanistan, and that was six months, maybe seven months to the day of when I got, when I got blown up when I found out that they were going, that was what pushed me in rehab to perform. So in the downtime that I had, I was able to finish my degree, finished at the University of Colorado. So I got promoted to Captain, went over to Special Operations Command North after that and then went to Afghanistan in the beginning of 2014.
– Veteran suicide, drug overdose, PTSD, all of these things that still linger and will always linger for many who served. That’s kind of become your life’s calling to serve those who served. Can you talk about what you’re doing today and why that’s so important to you?
– The Peer Reviewed Orthopedic Research Program, basically we make sure that we use congressional funding, about 30 million a year, towards the most beneficial orthopedic research. All the things that you see from gunshot wounds, explosions, things of that nature that will make a service member closer to whole. I’ve always said I don’t really care what my nine to five is – however I make the income to make sure that we’re financially stable – but I’ve always wanted to keep my weekends open and maybe a day during the week that I can still volunteer and help out with other organizations. The Salute Military Golf Association is one of them. So I help teach wounded service members how to play golf after their injuries. A lot of guys need a new way of finding peace and a new sport or something that gets them out of the house. And then I’ve always said that fresh air, blue sky and green grass can do a lot for you.
– The SMGA you just mentioned the Salute Military Golf Association. That is where you’d like us to send the $2,500 donation in your honor. And we will certainly get that off to them. Matt Anderson, Retired Captain and Purple Heart recipient from Richmond, Virginia. Thank you for being with us and thank you for agreeing to be our NFM Salute for the month of April, 2022. You are a hero.
– It was an honor to serve and always will be.
– Well, we appreciate your time again. I’m Greg Sher from NFM TV. This has been our April, 2022, NFM Salute, we’ll see you next time.