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'Helping a Hero' breaks ground for Bridlegate home

By Susan Junker & Judith Pannebaker

Over 75 people attended the Helping a Hero groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, August 14, for the future home of retired United States Army SSG Ed Matayka and his family. The groundbreaking took place in the Bridlegate Ranch Community subdivision on Bottle Springs Road. The home is expected to be completed in March 2015.
Members of American Legion Post 157 provided the color guard and presented Matayka and his wife, Karen, with post memberships and Bandera Honors Veterans hats. In addition, Post 157 will provide the Mataykas with a subscription to the Bandera County Courier to enable them to "learn more about their new community." The couple currently lives in New Braunfels.
During the ceremony, Matayka said, "I appreciate everyone's support and our family looks forward to making our home a permanent one in the Bandera community."
HelpingaHero.org has partnered with Huband-Mantor Construction, Inc. (HMC) and Bridlegate Ranch to build an accessible home for Matayka, who lost both legs in an IED (improvised explosive device) blast in Afghanistan. Kenny Mantor and HMC Construction will construct the he four bedroom, three bath residence on a two-acre lot in the subdivision. The home's special modifications will enable Matayka to be independent and do daily tasks on his own. The home will feature a roll-in shower, roll-under sink, wider hallways and doors and flush threshholds, among other adaptations, that will make day-to-day life easier for Matayka.
While growing up, the former staff sergeant's favorite things included computers, soccer, target pistol and rifle shooting and a variety of outdoor activities. Matayka was working two self-described "dead-end jobs" without direction when he met a recruiter at a 7-11. A day later, he enlisted in the Army, and by August of 1999, he had graduated basic training and begun medical training.
At that time, he met his future wife, Karen. In 2004, the couple were married by Karen's mother, a justice of the peace.
Karen Matayka, who served in the National Guard, was one of the first five females assigned to the Cavalry in Combat. At the time of her husband's accident, she served as a shooter, backup medic and member of the Female Engagement Team.
The evening of July 2, 2010, Ed Matayka's company were patrolling the Bagram Security Zone in Afghanistan when an IED detonated underneath the M-ATV, hitting a seam in the M-ATV's under armor. The driver was killed instantly; Matayka's left leg was traumatically amputated and the right, badly damaged.
Since Matayka served as the team medic and was the most severely wounded survivor, the rest of his team had to use the skills they had learned from the many tourniquet drills Matayka had required of them. A gunner from the truck proceeding the team, SPC David Schwerer, pulled security, prevented a counter-attack, and applied five tourniquets on Matayka's legs.
Within four hours of the blast and with aid of the National Guard, Karen Matayka rushed to her husband and has never left his side.
After over 23 surgeries, Matayka is now a double amputee, with traumatic brain injury, Cauda Equina syndrome, multiple lumbar fractures resulting in a spinal fusion, left upper arm spasticity and left side visual neglect.
However, Ed and Karen Matayka became the first couple approved to undergo InVitro fertilization provided by TriCare. They are now proud parents of 16-month-old twins and continue to advocate to ensure that InVitro procedures are available to other wounded warriors.
The Houston-based, Helping a Hero is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, non-partisan organization that provides support for military personnel, who have been severely injured in the war on terror. The HelpingaHero.org Home Program has assisted 100 severely wounded heroes from 22 states with new adapted homes. HelpingaHero.org is the second largest 501(c)(3) organization in the nation that builds homes for severely wounded heroes.
The organization is currently accepting applications for the 2015 homes that will be awarded at the Helping a Hero National Gala on Nov. 17, at the Hilton America's in Houston.
For more information on the HelpingaHero.org's Home Program, visit the website www.helpingahero.org.