By Susan Junker BCC Contributor
From left, Major General Tony Cupolo congratulated little Alana Matayka, SSG Ed and Karen Matayka and their son, Ryan, along with Helping A Hero Executive Director Bob Clark and builders Kenny Mantor and Daniel Huband during a "Welcome Home" ceremony in the Bridlegate subdivision on Tuesday, Nov. 9.
The recently welcomed-to-Bandera County Mataya family includes Karen and Ed and the couple's twins, Ryan and Alana.
"Welcome Home" was a refrain heard hundreds of times by retired United States Army SSG Ed Matayka and his wife, Karen, during a Welcome Home Ceremony held Tuesday, Nov. 9, in the Bridlegate subdivision.
The couple served in Afghanistan as army medics. They are also the parents of 2½-year-old twins, who were visibly excited not only by their new home but also by the large crowd that celebrated with them.
It was the Mataykas' heartwarming story of love and triumph that drew the Houston-based nonprofit, Helping A Hero, to the couple. They met in 2004 while attending army medic training.
Just six short years later, while on patrol duty of the Bagram security zone in Afghanistan, Ed Matayka was hit by an IED explosion that left him severely injured. His wife, then an army medic in the National Guard, immediately rushed to her husband's side to ensure he received the best possible care.
After over 23 surgeries, Matayka was left as a double amputee with traumatic brain injury and a multitude of other permanent injuries - but also as an incredible warrior hero.
Helping a Hero provided an opportunity for the Mataykas to obtain a specially designed home to accommodate his challenges. During the home tour, everyone appreciated the wider doors for wheelchair accessibility, roll-in shower, roll-under sinks, adapted toilet areas, safety features, a caregiver suite and exercise room, among other adaptations to make Matayka's daily life easier.
"You deserve this, you really do", said retired US Army Major General Anthony Cucolo, who now serves as vice chancellor for Military Affairs for the University of Texas System.
Since 2006, Helping A Hero has awarded over 100 homes in 22 states. By participating in the program, the Mataykas had to commit to key components of the program, such as living in the home for a minimum of 10 years, using the Specially Adapted Housing Grant from the VA and investing a minimum of $50,000, plus any selected upgrades beyond the Helping A Hero budget.
Addition-ally, the VA contributes up to $70,465 towards the home. Helping a Hero works with landowners, developers, and construction companies to obtain discounted and donated land, supplies and labor that contribute up to $100,000 of community donations.
The Bandera community - and beyond - was recognized for selfless sponsorship. Local support included that of Southerland Communities of Bridlegate and Huband-Mantor Construction, Buddy's Water Well & Septic Service, Propane Depot, Schneider Electric, Moonlight Fund, Catrina's Ranch Interiors, Turney Lighting and Block Creek Concrete Products, as well as over 30 other companies and individuals.
Over 100 people, including the couple's parents from the northeast, attended the ceremony. Bandera County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jody Rutherford, and Fire Marshall John Stith, plus members of the American Legion and civic organizations, also welcomed the family to Bandera County.
The Matayka family continues the moving-in process. Projects to be completed include landscaping, outdoor grilling area, garage storage and interior furniture and lighting, among others.
Bandera American Legion Post 157 has established an account at the Bandera Bank for those who wish to assist the Matayka family. Donations can be dropped off at the bank or mailed or mailed ICO the "Matayka Family," PO Box 1596, Bandera 78003. For more information, call 830-796-3711.
In his remarks, Cucolo challenged the Bandera community to provide the "proof that we will take care of those who volunteer and are wounded" and "to recommit to living a life worthy of their sacrifice."
Let's all take action today and beyond and do exactly that. We are honored to accept and exceed this challenge.