In 1996, Matias was a young boy and remembers being inspired as he walked by a United States Marine in his formal dress blue uniform, cleanly shaven, was “high and tight” and clearly a part of something that Matias did not understand. Matias asked his father what the man did and his father simply said, “He takes care of America.” As the years passed, Matias never forgot that Marine’s face.
Matias was a typical American kid with a love for sports. His passion was soccer and played throughout middle and high school. Once he graduated in 2007, Matias went on to play semi-pro soccer with the Atlanta Prime. In 2008 tragedy struck when Matias received the news that a high school friend had been killed in OIF/OEF. This was a turning point for him; Matais thought of that Marine he had seen in 1996, and decided to have the “talk” with his parents. He soon was boarding the bus that took him from being a civilian to becoming a Marine. Matais was off to take care of America.
In 2010, Matias and his Battalion were deployed to Masaquala, Afghanistan and six months later was running a mission to move a FOB (Forward Operating Base) to another location and things went terribly wrong. “The compound was searched and we were given the ‘all clear’ while setting up a security post on the roof. I jumped down to get the rest of my Marines and gear. For some reason I kept my PPE (Person Protection Equipment) and weapon with me that saved my life as I landed on a 30 pound IED (Improvised Explosive Device). I lost both legs below the knee, broke my pelvis, and shattered my femur along with a few minor injuries.” Matais continued talking about his recovery. “Once back in the states and beginning my physical therapy my life changed dramatically. As a Marine I learned to adapt and overcome, so I needed to learn how to walk, to run, to do everything I was capable of doing in the past and even more. I’ve gone back to school to study Criminal Justice. I want a career that provides the opportunity to continue to be involved with my brothers and to have the knowledge and work style that I have been accustomed to and admire.”
In addition to school, Matias plays softball on the Wounded Warrior’s Amputee softball team, skydives, snowboards and of course, scuba dives with SUDS.
His diving career started with SUDS in 2013 and already has his Advanced Open Water Certification and is in the process of acquiring his Rescue Diver Certification. One of his many goals is to continue his training and one day to become an instructor. He has been on several dive trips this year and is now a spokesperson for SUDS as well as role model for new SUDS divers. He has been able to participate on several SUDS dive trips that include Ft Lauderdale, Rincon Puerto Rico, Curacao and South Padre Island, Texas. He has represented SUDS at 2013 DEMA as well as several SUDS fundraising events.
Matias not only volunteers his time to support SUDS but is also a Camp Counselor with Advantage Amputee in North Carolina and is in the process of developing a kids amputee diving program. He has evolved from being a changed man when he returned to a dynamic asset supporting the dive community, both within the military and at large.
SUDS is very proud to have Matais part of the program.