Wounded Warrior Slaydon Inspires Barnes

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rosanne Frieri
  • 104th Fighter Wing
Last drill weekend I had the distinct privilege of escorting SSgt. Matthew Slaydon and his wife Annette throughout Barnes to various shops. Those fortunate enough to hear his message saw the strength and positive attitude this young hero displayed. 

Staff Sgt. Slaydon was extremely explicit and concise about taking care of people, he was on his third tour of duty as an EOD team leader when the worst possible incident took place - the IED detonated two feet way from his face causing his blindness and the loss of his left arm. 

That was one year ago, Oct 2007. The men in his unit didn't skip a beat; from the time the medivac landed, Staff Sgt. Slaydon was taken care of. 

During his keynote address at Barnes, at the Chief induction of Galen Wilson, Slaydon spoke of the importance of having that hard talk with your loved ones about what to do if something happens to you. He spoke positively, about his care once he arrived at Walter Reed, then on the Brooks Burn Unit in San Antonio, Texas. Upon arriving at Brooks, he and Annette were told by his commander as they got off the plane, "You are in Air Force country now, you will want for nothing." 

Slaydon's love for his country and the Air Force is strong. When asked what will you miss the most, he thought for a moment and said that he would miss not being able to return to Iraq with his men. He plans to retire next year, after which he will return to school to pursue a doctorate degree in clinical psychology, specializing in PTSD. 

Senior Master Sgt. Bill Butman was instrumental in the effort to enable Slaydon's visit to Barnes, along with Senior Master Sgt. Joe Delaney and Command Chief Master Sgt. Al Reale. Together, they planned every detail for the arrival of our guests. 

After their weekend visit to Barnes, Staff Sgt. Slaydon and his wife returned to their home in Arizona. They plan to continue fulfilling their speaking engagements. As we said our goodbyes at the airport that evening I extended my hand to bid farewell. SSgt. Slaydon handed me his coin with the Purple Heart. I have never been so moved. It has been six days and I still carry his coin. In my heart, I know I have met an American Hero.