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Wounded warrior brings positive message to Kadena

  • Published
  • By Maj. John Hutcheson
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
By all rights, Staff Sgt. Matthew Slaydon should be mad at the world. After all, the Air Force EOD technician lost his left arm and his eyesight on Oct. 24, 2007, thanks to an improvised explosive device during his third tour in Iraq. But the extraordinary NCO has taken a different approach to recovery and to life since that fateful day. 

Sergeant Slaydon brought his unique outlook and positive message to Kadena Air Base Sept. 12-17 as part of the Air Force's Wounded Warrior program and showed Airmen that they can do incredible things for their country, no matter what obstacles they face. He spoke at Kadena's Air Force Ball Sept. 13 and also had the opportunity to visit with Airmen in the 18th Civil Engineer Group, the NCO Academy and the First Term Airman's Center. 

"I've actually been trying to get to this base [Kadena] for a very long time," joked Sergeant Slaydon. "Turns out I had to get my arm blown off to get a ticket. If I'd known the price was that high, I might have changed my dream sheet." 

With a mixture of humor and intensity, the decorated Airman recalled the joys of serving his country as an EOD technician who volunteered all three times to deploy to Iraq to clear roads of IEDs. 

"I loved the challenge, and I loved knowing I'm saving somebody's life by blowing that thing up," said Sergeant Slaydon. 

While the explosion ended his EOD career and left him blind, Sergeant Slaydon knows he's lucky to be alive and doesn't plan to let his opportunity slip by. 

"I'm definitely going to take advantage of this second chance," he said. 

Sergeant Slaydon talked about getting the opportunity to meet the new Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz and Acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donnelly, and his confidence that these leaders would guide the service into the next phase of its evolution. 

Sergeant Slaydon also spent a lot of time talking about the word "warrior," which is used as frequently to describe athletes and other public figures as it is to describe members of the military. 

"What is a warrior? What does that mean?" asked the sergeant as he argued that football players and ultimate fighters simply don't fit the bill. "What I came to realize is that a warrior doesn't fight for personal gain, a warrior doesn't fight for fame, and he's not out there because of a paycheck. We are warriors because we fight for one another, because we fight for a cause."

Sergeant Slaydon urged Airmen to embrace their identity as warriors, whether they are maintainers turning a wrench to put jets in the air or finance experts funding the fight. Any Airmen that moves the mission forward is a warrior and the sergeant wanted to ensure that Airmen never lose sight of this. 

Accompanying Sergeant Slaydon on his trip to Kadena was his wife, Annette, who has been at his side since he returned from Iraq. The two renewed their wedding vows on April 11, 2008. 

Mrs. Slaydon had the chance to address the 800 members of the audience at the Air Force Ball and delivered an emotional message about how the Air Force family has taken care of her and her husband since his injury. 

"From that moment, my husband and I both have been surrounded by Air Force love, protection and encouragement," said Mrs. Slaydon. "To this very moment, it hasn't stopped." 

She credited her husband's recovery not only to his determination, but to all of the professionals who've helped along the way and to the entire Air Force for rallying around them. 

"His recovery has not just been because of all of his hard work. It's been because of the huge amount of love and support that has come to us from the Air Force," she said. 

Mrs. Slaydon said that she and her husband both have goals for the future, and that the Air Force has made it possible for them to pursue those goals. 

"It's going to be a wonderful life. But...there's nothing that I can accomplish that would make me prouder than being the wife of Staff Sgt. Matthew Slaydon and being an Air Force wife."