LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – For Army Sgt. Matthew Maddox, 9/11 brings memories of his fifth-grade music class, where he first heard the news that would begin his path toward the Army.
Eleven years after those attacks, Maddox is serving his second tour in Afghanistan. But his journey has not been easy.
Maddox joined the Army when he was 17, and left for training just a month after graduating from high school.
“I had my mind made up,” he said. “This was what I had wanted to do since the fifth grade -- since 9/11.”
After basic training, Maddox was assigned to Vicenza, Italy, at the headquarters of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. In late 2009, he deployed to Afghanistan. After six months, he headed home to California on mid-tour leave, never suspecting that he would not return to finish his tour. On May 26, 2010, at his home in Wallace, Calif., Maddox was run over by a grading tractor.
“I broke my left tibia, left femur, pelvis, tailbone, right orbital eye socket and suffered nerve damage to my right leg,” Maddox said. “I couldn’t walk for three months.”
He spent the next 18 months recuperating in California on “hospital status,” still in the Army, but at home working on a full recovery. Yet it was nowhere near the end of his military career.
On Jan. 3, 2011, Maddox reported back to Italy for a medical evaluation board. Instead of leaving the Army, he fought to extend his service and deploy again with the unit. After 18 months of rehabilitation and fighting for a spot in the fires platoon, Maddox finds himself on his second deployment to Afghanistan with the 173rd to settle what he calls unfinished business.
“I wanted to come back and finish a whole deployment. That was my personal goal. I wanted to finish what I started,” he said.
Now serving as a fire support specialist in Afghanistan, Maddox tracks the status of the 173rd’s artillery and mortar systems and their fire missions across two provinces. As a newly promoted sergeant with four soldiers working for him, he has to ensure their success as well as his own.
His enlistment will come to a close at the end of this deployment, but Maddox said he still sees a future with the military and plans to retire with the Army.
“When I get home I am joining the California National Guard, and I am going to apply for the California Highway Patrol to follow in my father’s footsteps,” he said.
Having rebuilt himself from the ground up, Maddox retains a positive attitude that he passes along to other soldiers.
“If you take pride in what you do and feel like there is more for you to accomplish, then it is worth it,” he said. “It is an experience everyone should endure. I have no regrets.”