More than 100 community members gathered on a chilly and windy Thursday morning to honor a man — a Marine — most had never met, and whose story most had never heard.
Matthew Bradford was 20 years old when, in January 2007, an improvised explosive device in Iraq took his left leg and his eyesight immediately. His right leg later had to be amputated. The blast also left him with limited use of his hand after breaking several bones.
On Thursday, Bradford and his family were honored at a groundbreaking ceremony by helpingahero.org, which is having a home for the Marine vet built in Jessamine County.
The custom-adapted home will be built to allow Bradford to be as independent as possible.
Bradford said life took a detour when he got hurt, but he has come back from the pain of the injuries.
“I love every mile I went down,” Bradford said. “Attitude is everything. When I first got hurt, I hated life, and I wanted to die. But there was just something in me. I was 20 years old, and I wanted a long life ahead of me. The last six years have been the most amazing years of my life. I would compare them to before my injuries and I would definitely pick them over it.”
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul was on hand during Thursday’s event and said the sacrifice of military members is felt across the nation, no matter what the social status may be.
"This is one thing that brings us all together." Paul said. “We ask a lot of our young men and women when we send them off to war, and I think it’s important for them to know the obligation doesn’t end with their service, and that we still have an obligation to them after they come home.”
Bradford also received a key to the city from Nicholasville Mayor Russ Meyer and a Nicholasville Police Department challenge coin from chief Barry Waldrop.
The new home marks the beginning of a new chapter in his and his wife’s lives, Bradford told the crowd.
Bradford dreams of become a sports announcer, and has enrolled in school in the fall to work toward that goal, he said.
Growing up in Kentucky, he loved University of Kentucky sports.
Because of this, Tom Leach, sports broadcaster for UK sports, spoke at the groundbreaking.
“(Meeting Bradford) is probably the greatest honor that I think I’ve ever had in the time that I’ve been in this job,” Leach said. “In this job, we throw around words like courage, bravery, heart. Yet Matt is the guy who personifies all of that. It certainly trivializes what those words mean in sports.”
Growing up, Bradford played football, basketball and tennis in high school and was a member of the Future Farmers of America. He enlisted in the Marine Corps straight out of high school.
After his 2007 injury, Bradford underwent physical therapy.
His injuries didn’t stop him from living his life.
During the recovery process, Bradford met his future wife, Amanda. He re-enlisted in the Marine Corps in April 2010 as the first blind double amputee.
He was stationed at Wounded Warrior Battalion East in Camp Lejeune, N.C., until he retired in July 2012.
He and his wife now live in Lexington, but once his new home is complete, he and his family will move to Jessamine County.
The Bradfords’ new home, which will be located at 412 W. Brannon Road, should be completed by the end of July. The Bradfords will assume a $50,000 mortgage on the house.
Helpingahero.org builds specially adapted homes for veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan who are now at least 70 percent disabled, Meridith Iler, chairman and founder of the organization, said. The Texas-based organization has built 90 homes in 21 states, she said. To apply or for more information, visit helpingahero.org.
Donations to the program also can be made at that website, Iler said. To donate specifically to Bradford's home, just write "For Matt Bradford" in the comments section.