Some dates he wears the legs with the American pennants. There’s an American flag sticker on his motorcycle, too, and the other on his truck. Plus an American pennant spot on his softball attire, an American flag tattooed on his muscular right arm, and one dangle from the front porch of his house — where his wife and young daughter are still sleeping inside.
The clock speaks 4 a.m. Sitting on the edge of the couch, he declines on polyurethane liners — like large-scale socks or cushions — around his knees, up to his thighs. Then, he lodges on the prosthetic legs and eases his style all over the room to make sure they’re comfortable.
In the last five years he’s done more on these two sections of hard plastic than the majority of members of us will do in a lifetime: learned to walk again, then to extend. Then there was the Disney half marathon, the Marine Corps 10 k, the Navy 5-miler, the Detroit Marathon, the New York City Marathon.
In October, he made headlines for saving a babe from a auto shipwreck in Queens.
It’s a 45 -minute commute from his quiet Long Island neighborhood to Manhattan. Some daylights it’s still dark when he moves through the entrances of the massive building locate on 131 st Street and Broadway. Almost everyone here knows him by now. In a trailer all the people call the “shanty” — where there’s coffee and donuts — he declines on boots over the prosthetic feet and makes on a hard hat.
Then it’s the elevator down and down to the deep cellar height of a monstrous brand-new medical complex at Columbia University’s Manhattanville campus. There, he introduces on a welding visor — adorned, of course, with an American flag sticker. He gets to work.
Matias Ferreira, 26, lost his legs five years ago as a Marine in Afghanistan. Now, thanks to a program called Helmets to Hardhats, he is a proud apprentice with the Steamfitters Local 638, whose 8,200 members fit tubes all over New York City and Long Island.
“I wanted to give back.”
Ferreira was born in Uruguay. He and and their own families migrated to the U.S. when he was 6 and lived here with green cards. At 19, like so many immigrants, he joined the Marines.
“I wanted to give back, ” he told The Huffington Post. “As an immigrant, this country “ve been given” so much better to my family and myself and so much opportunity.”
He took his oath to become an American citizen in September 2010, simply a few eras before he was deployed to Afghanistan.
On Jan. 21, 2011, Ferreira says he was working as a machine gunner where reference is and his squad fastened a complex in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He and two other Navals were told to set up their gear on the ceiling of the building.
“We started taking off our paraphernalium, but something told me not to take off my kevlar[ vest] or anything and I should maintain my sidearm, ” he echoed.
He told his team to stay put — he’d get the rest of the equipment.
“I climbed off the ceiling same practice I came up and that’s when I realise something wasn’t right, ” Ferreira echoed. “I listened almost like this Hollywood-ized pin drop. Then, all of the abrupt, I didn’t hear or see anything.”
Ferreira had stepped on an IED, or improvised explosive machine. When the dust cleared, a fellow Marine was wrapping tourniquets around his legs, causing him morphine and telling him gags. Everything’s going to be fine, the Marine told him. We’re going to grasp brews when we get back stateside.
“I didn’t know the severity of my hurt, ” Ferreira suggested. “I met blood on my breathes but I didn’t know I was missing my legs.”
Then they waited for 30 minutes — which seemed like an “eternity, ” Ferreira read — for the medevac helicopter to arrive. His platoon started mentioning their departures. “We love you, gentleman, ” they said. Ferreira says he managed to give them a thumbs up before being face-lift onto the helicopter.
You push yourself because you have to find reasons to keep going.
Ferreira passed out. He was given an oxygen disguise while medics performed a series of blood transfusions. He’d lost a lot of blood. He woke up in the Bagram Airfield hospital and from there was carried to Germany for a 24 -hour emergency surgery. On crown of “losing ones” leg, he’d interrupted his pelvis and femur.
When he arrived at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington , D.C ., he was wheelchair-bound for four months until we are able to fit on the prosthesis. Formerly he got the prosthesis, he started teaching — hard. Just nine months later, he was ranging a half-marathon at Disney World, in Florida.
“You push yourself because you have to find rationales to keep going, ” he announced.
Ferreira medically retired from the Marine a year after the IED explosion. Then he had to find a new career.
For many military personnel and Marines, rendering from wars is a fraught moment. As much practise as they receive to be in the military, they don’t always get training for life in the civilian world. Their skills and abilities don’t always be converted into places, and those suffering from hurts or post-traumatic stress illnes are at an immediate disadvantage.( It’s partly why there is a disproportionate number of homeless veterans .)
Ferreira started attending school at the University of Central Florida but thrived restless.
“I prosecuted education — I moved for my bachelor’s in its management, ” Ferreira recollected. “With that, though, I went to institution every morning, but I didn’t have a purpose. My wife and I recently had had a daughter and as important as education is, I didn’t have any occupation or anything guaranteed for the near future. It was neat and all to go to school but as a spouse and father-god, I needed to make sure I provide for my family.”
That’s when a pal told him about about Helmets to Hardhats.
Helmets to Hardhats, a nonprofit, pronounces Ferreira is among some 20,000 American veterans it’s connected with good-paying, often unionized employment opportunities in the construction industry. No prior know is involved, and the veterans participate earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship training programs that last three to five years old. After the apprenticeship is over, they have a career.
“Helmets to Hardhats “ve been given” our organization some of its best and most productive workers, able to harness their substantial military training, ”Richard Roberts, the Steamfitters’ business agent at large, said in a statement. “We believe that America has a duty to give back to those who sufficed, so veterans are not stuck in dead-end hourly occupations without any occupation pathway or hope of achieving the American Dream of homeownership, communicating our kids to college and being able to withdraw with glory when we are too old to continue working.”
“You know the union’s going to take care of you.”
It’s curricula like Helmets to Hardhats that have also contributed to the steadily rejecting unemployment rate among military ex-servicemen. According to data released in December from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.9 percent of the country’s 20 million veterans were unemployed in October — the lowest rate in seven years.
The unemployment for post-9/ 11 ex-servicemen like Ferreira likewise descended dramatically to 4.6 percent last year, from 7.2 percentage in 2014. That’s the lowest level since the BLS inaugurated tracking that particular group in 2008.
“This steamfitter union, Local 638, has pretty much prepared me up for success, ” Ferreira told. “The health benefits are imperative. Although I’m covered by armed health insurance, it’s not that good. Get covered under the steamfitter local is — it’s prodigious. I can take care of my family and not have to worry about getting a $5,000 legislation because my daughter went to the hospital to get checked out.”
“Also, it sets you up for different retirement savings account, ” he persisted. “You know the union’s gonna take care of you.”
And there’s the work itself. For Ferreira, there are similarities he experiences between being in the steamfitters uniting and being in the military. There’s a clearly defined chain of command, Ferreira added, and a real camaraderie among steamfitters.
Plus, there’s a lot at stake. The work is fragile, sometimes dangerous. Steamfitters like to say they build and preserve the hearts, veins, and lungs of New York City: the high-pressure gas, steam and water pipes, fervour sprinklers, and HVAC systems of big structures. If a hose is fitted incorrectly, or if something isn’t welded the mode it should be, there can be blowups or other collisions, and people can get hurt.
Ferreira’s post-Afghanistan life has been molded by programs for veterans. Another nonprofit, Home For Our Troops, is building him and his family a house in a Long Island town near Merrick, where they currently live.
He gamblings for the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team — made up exclusively of ex-servicemen who have lost limbs — which hurtles the two countries playing able-bodied crews and promoting funding for armed amputees, amputee children and medical investigate.( It was at a softball game in New York, incidentally, where he met his wife, Tiffany .)
Ferreira said this kind of support system and the help of their own families has helped him get by. It’s also rendered him a sense of humor.
Sometimes when he’s travelling the train with suddenlies on, he answered, young children will stare at his prosthetic legs and ask what happened. “It’s what happens when you don’t devour your vegetables, ” he generally replies.
He doesn’t regret to intervene in the Marines. If he had been able to do it all over again, he would.
“9/ 11 was my reason for joining the service and now I’m working in this city build these buildings, ” he suggested.
He told being a steamfitter in New York is more than just going to work every morning.
“It’s an honor.”