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Man Loses Both Legs at War, Runs Marathon 9 Months Later, Begins Union Apprenticeship



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The Huffington Post recently featured the amazing story of 26-year-old Matias Ferreira, who lost both of his legs five years ago in Afghanistan. He has miraculously settled into a successful civilian life with help from the Helmets to Hardhats program.  The man who went from not being able to walk to being able to run the New York City Marathon (!!!) is also an apprentice with the Steamfitters Local 638. 

After stepping on an IED in Afghanistan, Ferreira returned to Walter Reed hospital with no legs, wheelchair bound.  Just nine months later he ran and completed the Disney half marathon.  Having medically retired from the Marines he began looking for a new career.  At first he went to school at the University of Central Florida, but was eager to begin a new career path that could provide for his family.  As he told HuffPo:

“I pursued education — I went for my bachelor’s in business management.  With that, though, I went to school 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 career or anything guaranteed for the near future. It was nice and all to go to school but as a husband and father, I needed to make sure I provide for my family.”

When someone told him about the Helmets to Hardhats program his life changed. He is now one of over 20,000 Americans enrolled in the program. Richard Roberts, the Steamfitters’ business agent at large, praised the program:

“Helmets to Hardhats has given our union some of its best and most productive workers, able to harness their significant military training.  We believe that America has a duty to give back to those who served, so veterans are not stuck in dead-end hourly jobs without any career pathway or hope of achieving the American Dream of homeownership, sending our kids to college and being able to retire with dignity when we are too old to continue working.”

The program has been instrumental in lowering the unemployment rate for veterans.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 3.9 percent of the country’s 20 million veterans were unemployed last October, the lowest rate in seven years.  The unemployment numbers for post-9/11 veterans dropped drastically from 7.2 percent in 2014 to 4.6 percent in 2015.  Ferreira says that Helmets to Hardhats and the Steamfitters union has helped him transition into civilian life:

“This steamfitter union, Local 638, has pretty much set me up for success,” Ferreira said. “The health benefits are imperative. Although I’m covered by military health insurance, it’s not that good. Getting covered through the steamfitter local is — it’s unbelievable. I can take care of my family and not have to worry about getting a $5,000 bill because my daughter went to the hospital to get checked out.”

“Also, it sets you up for different retirement plans,” he continued. “You know the union’s gonna take care of you.”


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