Everyone has that day in their life that they will always remember. No matter how long ago it was, you can recall it like it was yesterday. You can remember the most insignificant of details embedded in your memory. This is the kind of day that turns everything you know upside down. For Private First Class Matt Pedersen, that day was November 6, 2004.
During his tour in Iraq, Pedersen was riding in the back of a seven-ton Marine vehicle with 20 other soldiers, just a few miles outside of their base. In the distance, an Iraqi police car sat off to the side of the road. The driver jumped into the car, and made a direct path straight at the Marine truck.
“Marine drivers are trained to take the brunt of any collision,” says Matt. “It is part of their training to protect the rest of the passengers.”
The suicide bomber’s car was filled with white phosphorus, which exploded upon impact. When it struck the Marine truck head-on, it turned the two vehicles into a giant fireball.
Fortunately for Pedersen’s unit, everyone survived the crash, including the driver. The only fatality was the suicide bomber, whose car was ripped to pieces, leaving only one tire and one axle in the sand.
Everyone helped those who were injured out of the truck, and transferred them onto a stretcher (Matt and another soldier had suffered the most damage).
“The base that we were stationed at had been stripped down to the bare minimum,” says Matt, “so there wasn’t much more than bandages available.”
Matt was taken to Longstool, Germany, for medical attention. At this time, both of his legs were still intact, however, they had swollen to 3-4 times their normal size. Matt would spend a few days in the ICU in Germany where he received two blood transfusions and was treated for third-degree burns on his hands and face. He also received skin grafts on his left hand and left calf, and was treated for several shrapnel wounds in his left arm, hip and even in his neck, where it missed his carotid artery by one-eighth of an inch.
After a year of recovery, Pedersen was later taken to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. Although his right foot was still intact, the bones in his foot had disintegrated from the blast. The doctors attempted a trial procedure with a partial foot prosthesis, however it was never comfortable enough for Matt’s day-to-day living. Two years after the horrible explosion in Iraq, Matt’s right leg was amputated below the knee.
Private Pedersen received a Purple Heart from the Secretary of the Army, Les Brownley, who personally visited him in his hospital bed. He also received the Combat Infantry Badge, the Global War on Terrorists Medal and the Expeditionary War on Terrorists Medal.
“I received so much love and support from my family and friends when I finally came home. I hadn’t seen them in years, and I was very excited to be home,” says Matt. “The city of Angola, Indiana, threw me a welcome home celebration, where I received a letter from Mayor Richard Hickman, declaring the day “Private First Class Matthew Pedersen Day.”
After struggling with several prosthetic facilities, Matt finally found the right fit for him at SRT Prosthetics. Matt is now the first amputee in Indiana to be fit with the Power Foot BiOM by a private prosthetic facility.
“SRT is awesome,” says Matt. “They know exactly what I need to be comfortable, and my phantom pains have significantly reduced. The technology of the Power Foot BiOM is amazing. I can keep it on longer because I don’t get as sore, I don’t have to stop when I get to a curb, and I hardly have to use any effort when going up or down stairs.”
Matt now works at Frontier Communications in Fort Wayne and lives in Auburn, Indiana, with his wife, Desiree, and four children Myiah, Kyrstin, Ethan and Addison.
After bravely serving his country, the staff at SRT is very proud to not only know Matt, but also to provide him with this life-changing care.