Wound cuts short soldier's Army career
Army Sgt. Matt Jordan says his daughter, Olivia, 3, has been a big help in adjusting to his prosthetic leg. (Jason Schreiber)
EPPING — Army Sgt. Matt Jordan always planned on a long career in the military.
His uncle spent 22 years in the Marine Corps. His grandfather fought in Korea.
And he was barely a teenager when terrorists attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. But the event that changed the course of history also changed the course of his young life, putting him on a path that led him to the Army one month after graduating from Epping High School in 2006.
“It was one of those things that I felt I wanted to do,” the 23-year-old Epping man said.
But the military career he dreamed of is coming to an end.
Jordan must now retire after his right leg was shattered by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Iraq on March 14, 2009.
He remembers everything about the blast and the moments after it happened. Two weeks before the explosion, Jordan had signed up for another six years in the Army, but when he looked down at his leg he knew that his life was about to change.
“From the minute I got hit, I always knew I was going to lose my leg. I knew it in the back of my head,” he recalled.
Doctors tried desperately to save his leg. He underwent multiple surgeries in the weeks and months following the explosion, but there was little hope, so he and his wife, Katelynn, prepared for the day last August when his leg would be amputated.
“He said he was ready for it. He just took it, and two weeks after surgery he did nine rounds of golf,” said Katelynn, 23, who grew up in Fremont and married her high school sweetheart after he finished basic training four and half years ago.
In October, Jordan received a prosthetic leg — a device that he said his 3-year-old daughter, Olivia, thinks is “the coolest thing.”
“We made sure she went to all the appointments. She helped the doctor with the leg, and she's she was a big help,” he said with a laugh.
Jordan has always tried to keep a positive attitude despite his life-changing injury. He said he couldn't have done it without the support of his wife.
“She's the one who got me through it all,” he said of Katelynn, who has not only been there for him at every moment, but also studied full time at Colorado Technical University, thanks to a scholarship from the college.
Each year CTU provides 25 full scholarships to wounded service members and 25 to spouses of wounded service members. It's one of the few universities to offer such scholarships. Katelynn received her scholarship in December 2009 — the first wounded spouse to earn the scholarship that year — and recently graduated with an associate's degree in general studies. She plans to continue her education at a pharmaceutical school while her husband pursues a degree in criminal justice.
“It's really been a job to take care of him. He didn't sign up to get hurt, and neither did I, but we just have to do it. He's capable of doing everything; it's just a little more difficult,” she said of adjusting to their new life after the explosion.
Jordan is based at the Fort Carson Warrior Transition Unit, but he's expected to be medically discharged from the Army in about a month. At that point, he'll return to the home he and his wife recently bought in Epping.
While he's currently interning with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Jordan said he hopes to transfer to a job with a federal agency, preferably the Department of Homeland Security, once he's back in Epping.
Determined to move on with his life, Jordan was cleared to run again less than five months after receiving his new leg, a big accomplishment since it takes about a year for most amputees.
“He's a fast healer,” Katelynn said.
Aware of the dangers of the job and the realities of war, the Jordans count their blessings.
“He's lucky to be alive,” Katelynn said, “and we know it.”
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