Here’s Johnny! The state of Matthew Bradford
Dear Readers may be familiar with Matthew Bradford, one of President Trump’s guests at Tuesday evening’s State of the Union speech.
Many first learned of Bradford and the fellow veteran who came to Midway to spend a few hours with him when Bradford was profiled in the Sun’s Oct. 19issue:
The 750 runners on two good legs at Sunday’s Iron Horse Half Marathon & 12K in Midway Sunday were led by a man who has none.
Marine Corp. Matthew Bradford lost his legs and eyesight after a roadside bomb went off in Iraq in 2007. Sunday, he was the official starter, and his wife, Amanda, helped push the handcycle he was in for the entire 13.1 mile mini-marathon.
Bradford had intended to operate the handcycle himself, with fellow Purple Heart winner Army Sgt. First Class Augusto ‘Tito’ Pineiro as his guide. OnMonday, Oct. 9, the 38-year-old Pineiro, who’d run in even longer-distance races to raise awareness for veterans’ causes, was struck and killed by a car while training in a handcycle.
While Pineiro wasn’t there, he wasn’t forgotten by race officials, who announced his passing before the race, or Bradford, who wore Pineiro’s numbered race bib on his chest.
Bradford said Pineiro texted him a few weeks ago to ask how long he thought the race would take. Bradford replied that the hilly course would preclude a fast time, and Pineiro responded positively, saying he wouldn’t have to train too much.
“ … It hurts that he was (killed while) training to guide me,” Bradford said.
The disabled Marine and wounded-but-physically able Pineiro had taken part in two “Spartan” obstacle course events together, including one at Lambeau Field a couple of months before. Each belonged to the non-profit group Operation Enduring Warrior, which had several members at Sunday’s race.
Bradford said he’d looked forward to getting to know Pineiro better that day.
“That’s when you … kind of talk about the military service, and just life in general,” Bradford said.
They would have had plenty to discuss. Pineiro had received five Purple Hearts for the injuries he suffered in the Army. Bradford was nearly killed when he stepped on a roadside bomb that was in a pipe under a road.
“The pipe pretty much took my left leg off. My right leg was later amputated at the hospital and … shrapnel in my eyes blinded me,” Bradford said.
Before the race, Bradford was approached by several people who wanted to thank him for his service – and, perhaps, get a closer look at a blue left eye with a familiar theme.
“When they told me in 2007 that they could put any design on a prosthetic eye, as long as it looks good when they minimize it, I said,
‘Well, sign me up for for designs.’ I’ve had everything from an Osama Bin Laden eye to the Marine Corps symbol to now, UK. No need for a boring blue eye – let’s get a design on there,” Bradford said, laughing.
His Big Blue eye wasn’t the only thing Bradford was enjoying. Asked how he was doing a decade after the explosion, he smiled.
“You always look back and see how life would be if you didn’t step on the bomb, but I look at the life that I’ve lived, and it’s been an amazing life. I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done or anything that’s happened to me, because it’s all led me down this road,” he said.
That road includes six marathons, five half-marathons, six Spartan races and his marriage to the woman who pushed him through the city streets and country roads of Midway.
They met in 2010. After Bradford became the first blind double amputee to reenlist in the U.S. Marines, he was sent to the Wounded Warrior battalion at Camp Lejeune.
“We kind of met and became friends, and next thing you know, here we are,” Bradford said, chuckling again.
Bradford was raised in Winchester and moved to Virginia during high school. Today, he lives in Nicholasville with Amanda and their three children, two of whom she brought into the marriage.
A few minutes before the National Anthem was played, Bradford spoke of the motto of men like himself and the friend he’d planned to talk with on the rolling hills of Woodford County.
“I think the way we all live our life as amputees, wounded warriors – we don’t want to make excuses for anything. Anything that a normal person can do, we can all get out and do,” Bradford said.
A few minutes later, with Amanda’s help, that’s just what Matthew Bradford did.