After 12 years, wounded veteran able to visit Kansas home
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — For 12 years, now-retired Staff Sgt. Matt Lammers didn’t feel comfortable in his old suburban Kansas City home. He’d drive for hours from Arizona to Olathe, pull up to the curb with the intention of saying hello to his parents, but turn around.
He’d been wounded on his second tour in Iraq with the Army infantry in 2007. Returning to a base in Baghdad, his Humvee hit an explosive, and he returned to the U.S., 25 years old, having lost both legs and his left arm. The memories of playing catch in his parents’ yard and being in the living room again were too painful for him, he told The Kansas City Star .
But Lammers said with his renewed love of sports and support from his current wife, he felt the strength to come back to Kansas City this month. He’s on a two-week visit with his daughters from his first marriage before heading to Florida to compete in a Paralympics-style competition for veterans.
“If I’m being brutally honest, I’d never thought I’d have this peace in my heart until I passed on,” Lammers said.
Lammers enlisted in the Army the day after 9-11, after watching the Twin Towers in New York City fall on television in his family’s living room. He was hoping to be sent to the Middle East.
It’s been a hard 12 years since he became a triple amputee. There have been multiple suicide attempts, drug abuse and a bipolar disorder that went undetected for nearly a decade. He’s had to learn how to navigate the world through his wheelchair and to walk using prosthetic legs.
But after finding his wife, Alicia, and spending years in physical therapy, he said his prayers have finally been answered.
Lammers returned to Olathe last week after competing in the Department of Defense’s Warrior Games, another Paralympic-style competition for injured, ill and wounded veterans. He was on the Army’s field, swimming, indoor rowing and sitting volleyball teams.
“Now he focuses on the positive,” his wife Alicia said. “Instead of focusing on the things he can’t do anymore, he focuses on the things he will do this time.”
He lived in Arizona before moving to North Carolina last year. Still, he proudly touts Kansas with a “KC” tattoo on his right hand.
And his name is on a plaque on part of the National World War I Museum and Memorial grounds in Kansas City, Missouri, that honors veterans of later conflicts. When Lammers and his wife saw the plaque, he broke down crying, not believing someone found him deserving enough to spell out his name when others are identified only by their initials.
Lammers took the Spartan pledge last August — a vow that veterans make to not commit suicide after returning from combat. He renewed his vows with his wife last year to commemorate what he thinks of as a new stage in his life.
“My friends who didn’t make it are my heroes,” Lammers said. “I’m still breathing, I’m still here, and I want to live my life in their honor.”
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com