Matt McCoy

Matt McCoy


Matthew McCoy is the Digital Content Manager at the Headstrong Project.

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(Part 1/3): “I grew up in a small little town in Michigan. I went to college to play football and while I was there I realized school wasn’t really for me. It felt like a waste of time and money so I started checking out all the service branches. I scored high enough on my ASVAB to do a lot of jobs, but knew I wanted to go Airborne Infantry. I wanted a change of scenery and thought it would be fun to get paid to jump out of airplanes. The military turned out to be even closer than my football team with more camaraderie and a tight knit group. I was deployed three different times while in the Army. I had a 15 month deployment to Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008 before deploying again in 2009 and 2010 for a 12 month deployment back to Afghanistan. I had orders to go to Ft. Hood, TX but my wife and I had just bought a house in Ft. Bragg and I didn’t want to leave my guys who were going back overseas. I went back in February 2012 and was supposed to deploy for nine months with my unit until I had a bad day at the office. The day I got hit happened when we got a call from the village elder; we would always go out to help them. The guy in the front had the mine sweeper and went over it two different times and marked it clear. I went up and put my 120 pound backpack on the ground and set off an IED. It tore my right arm and right leg off immediately. My left leg was barely holding on and my left arm was blown off at the mid wrist. I was cognizant after the explosion and told myself just to stay calm because there’s nothing I could do to make it better. My platoon sergeant and medic put tourniquets on all four sides. I kind of brushed them off and told them to go help others because I had seen guys die with a lot less injuries. There were a few other guys that were hurt so with what was left of my left hand, I radio’d my lieutenant and told them we needed another medic. They worked on the other guys and then sent me to the Kandahar to get worked on. Before they knocked me out, I remember asking the nurse if I’d ever see my little girl again because at the time she was six months old.

They gave me over 400 units of blood that day and I think it might still be the record in Afghanistan. I had nine doctors and nurses working on me for over 14 hours; two nurses took turns pumping air in and out of my lungs for nine hours. Everything they did was super impressive and I’m very thankful for what they did. I was a triple amputee until they flew me to Bagram and I ended up losing the rest of my left hand there after the skin died. Two days later I woke up from a medical coma in Germany and my brother-in-law who was deployed with me was there. I was wondering how the rest of my guys were. I asked him if I was paralyzed and he said no, but I had lost all my limbs. I sat quietly for a long time contemplating a lot of different thoughts; wondering what I did wrong, why it happened to me, how am I going to be a husband or father, etc. I really had that Lieutenant Dan moment like how am I going to be better off and not a burden. I got out of the military wondering who I was. I had to rebuild my life and I remember being in my in-laws’ basement looking at a picture of me that was taken right before I got blown up and thinking I’m not that guy anymore. However, I had a little girl and nothing to complain about because I still got to be her dad. That’s why we have Memorial Day because there are guys and their families who sacrificed everything so selfishly I realized I’d be disrespecting them and their sacrifice if I didn’t make the most of the opportunity that I had. I had 25 years with arms and legs and I’ve had nine now without and they’ve been pretty stellar. My injury doesn’t hold me back because why should it; the world is what you make it.

I was fortunate enough to get through a lot of my own difficulties with my family and close friends from Walter Reed. I realized that a lot of my good friends didn’t make it back home and that I needed to keep going for them. However, I think Headstrong is a very valuable resource for those individuals who are dealing with some of these wounds that are less visible than what I have. I was just with a bunch of veterans the other day in Atlanta shark diving in a cage and our friends at Chubbies actually sent a ton of shorts and apparel to help outfit all the veterans. They’ve not only been big supporters of the Travis Mills Foundation and Headstrong, but of a lot of families like ours. The foundation has really allowed me to give back and let people know to keep pushing forward. We opened in 2017 and had 89 families come that year at no cost to them. We had 135 the year after that and over 200 in 2019 before COVID slowed us down. We’re opening back up June 27th for all people with physical injuries. I’m obviously more familiar with physical injuries, but since we established my foundation we’ve branched out to help people suffering from mental trauma as well. We had the opportunity to partner with Warrior Path and the Boulder Crest Foundation, and opened our doors to offer a program called Post Traumatic Growth. It’s all free and we want to give back and help as many people as we can. It’s been nine years since my bad day at work and now I have a prosthetic arm and legs. I can drive by myself, own four or five businesses, and have a non-profit for veterans. We live in a great nation where you can do anything you want despite what you have going on disability-wise because it’s all a mindset. I tell myself to never dwell on the past because that will get you nowhere and not to let your situation drive your attitude.”