MEET YOUR NEW PEN PAL
Matthew Leyva is a New York boy.
He graduated from Cicero-North Syracuse in 2008.
Two years later, in October of 2010, he enlisted in the Army. Home on Christmas leave that year, he married his sweetheart.
The next spring, in April 2011, three months out of basic training, he deployed to Afghanistan.
Four months later, on the 9th of last August, walking point, he stepped on the pressure plate.
He lost his legs, his bowels, his testicles, two fingers from each hand and the use of his left arm.
That’s what it means to serve America. That’s what it means to be a soldier. That’s what it costs to answer your country’s call. Today PFC Matt Leyva is in therapy every day in Texas, his wife and his mother by his side, his friends from the Army behind him.
He is 21 and his wife is 20.
And this is their new reality.
A big, husky, strong man, he struggles now each day to one-arm himself into his wheelchair, and to half-nelson himself upright when he falls. His situation has received public attention lately as a Texas newspaper has highlighted Matt Leyva’s injuries as of a type increasingly common in Afghanistan. More and more, Taliban mines are directed against soldiers on foot, instead of in vehicles, and the resultant maimings are among the worst ever survived in combat.
Few have ever been as injured as Matt Leyva and survived. Few have ever been called to walk the path he has been called to walk.
By every indication, he is taking it well. His quotes in the newspaper are vibrant, grateful and strong. If he’s feeling sorry for himself, he’s doing so on his own time. He doesn’t talk about what’s lost, he talks about what’s possible.
But the burden on him, his wife and his parents is obvious.
So, too, is the obligation on the rest of us.
You don’t ask a man to suffer this much on your behalf without pledging yourself to his support. You don’t let this one pass into the oblivion of public forgetfulness. You stand with those who have stood for you, and you pay your debt of love.
Which is why this column is here.
Matt Leyva is prominent in the Texas papers, but he is a New York boy, and when he has progressed enough he will come home to New York. When he does, he should be coming truly home, not just to a place he remembers, but to a place that remembers him.
And he shouldn’t be alone out there in Texas. He should be overwhelmed and engulfed by the letters and well wishes of people back home. Friends he hasn’t met yet.
That is the point of this column.
To briefly tell his story, to set you Googling for more information about him, and to ask you to write him.
Individuals should write, classrooms should write, Sunday schools should write. Public officials and teachers, athletes and car dealers, entertainers and moms. VFW posts and Masonic lodges and motorcycle clubs and bowling leagues. Everybody and anybody. Upstate New York should become his pen pal.
That’s the suggestion of this column.
Here is his address:
Pvt. 1st Class Matthew Leyva
2854 Wyoming Street
San Antonio, Texas 78203
And tell an American hero that you love him, and that he is in your heart and in your prayers.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2012