Wounded Vt. warrior awaits comrades' return - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Wounded Vt. warrior awaits comrades' return

Thetford, Vermont - December 8, 2010

Military men and women friends and family lined up at the Lebanon, N.H., airport to welcome a Vermont guard soldier.

"This is a good gift, this is a great gift," Laurie Ingalls said.

Sgt. Ed Matayka is home.

"He's going to show every soldier that gets injured-- I can do this," said Ingalls, Matayka's mother-in-law.

Matayka was on a convoy down a road in Afghanistan when the military vehicle he was riding in hit a massive bomb buried beneath the road. The blast killed the driver, Specialist Ryan Grady, and wounded four other Vermont soldiers, Matayka most critically.

"When he was driving he always took crap from me-- he's going to be missed sorely," Matayka said.

"I just knew it was bad," said his wife, Sgt. Karen Matayka.

She was also serving in Afghanistan when the blast happened. She was at her husband's side almost immediately.

"I didn't want to leave his side," she said. "I remember thinking, what did we do to deserve this? I know he wouldn't want me to think that, but I just sat there and cried and cried and cried."

Ed Matayka doesn't remember anything about that day. He woke up 6 weeks later. He lost his legs, suffered spinal fractures, organ damage, a massive brain bleed and a stroke. He credits love and support for his recovery.

"We had plans when we got back that we wanted to have kids and that kept her going and it kept me going too," he said.

Ed Matayka has been undergoing 5 months of therapy with the goal of returning to Vermont this week to welcome his fellow Vermont soldiers at their homecoming. And one in particular-- a soldier named David Schwerer-- whose nickname is Squirrel. He's the Vermont soldier who saved Matayka's life in the field.

"I want to thank him myself," Matayka said. "I was not doing too well that day."

Reporter Darren Perron: Did he save your life?

Ed Matayka: There's no doubt-- no doubt in my mind.

"I'm so happy he's here," Karen Matayka said. "And so happy we can grow old together."

Ed Matayka will be in Vermont for the next five days. During that time his unit will return, though a specific date has not been released. After the homecoming, Matayka will return to Virginia for further treatment.

Darren Perron - WCAX News

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