Family and academics take first priority for veteran

For all superhero fans out there, junior business administration major Matthew Blain might strike your interest. Although Blain might blend in with other students in class, he is most certainly a hero among us.

While serving his first tour of duty in Afghanistan, Blain stepped on a landmine, which did not explode until the Humvee behind him triggered an explosion. After this explosion threw Blain to the ground, he quickly ran to the vehicle to rescue the injured men. Blain chose to re-enlist after the Army awarded him a Purple Heart.
But his acts of service do not stop there.

Another moment of Blain’s heroism was during his second tour in Afghanistan when a road collapsed, causing Blain and his team’s truck to roll into the river. This solider in the Army still does not understand how everybody escaped uninjured.

“God was looking out for everyone that day,” Blain said. “Our interpreter had his body armor on and didn’t know how to swim. We got to him and pulled him out. The other men were stuck inside the truck because the armored doors weighed too much for them to push them open.”

Blain dove in to rescue the interpreter and dove in again to rescue the others. Eventually, the determined soldier pulled the door open while he and a sergeant were able to get two of the three other men out. The third soldier was underneath the water, breathing through an air bubble in the cab of the truck. Another soldier saw what was keeping that man stuck under water and managed to cut him free.

“This is a story of success because no one got killed or seriously injured,” Blain said. “When the event happened, I thought that there was no way they were going to make it out.”

According to University Relations, Blain shares a rare honor with former Secretary of State and retired Army General Collin Powell — The Soldier’s Medal. The Army presented Blain with this honor for heroism and the bravery he exemplified in this life or death situation.

“The motivation comes from serving others,” Blain said. “As a leader in the army, I knew that being in a leadership position meant I served the people who were under me. When those combat situations arose, my motivation came from taking care of my guys.”

This hero’s instinct to guard and protect could possibly be said to in the family. Blain grew up hearing stories about his Grandfather’s acts of courage. Blain’s grandfather was a member of the 101st Airborne “Pathfinders” who parachuted into France the night before D-Day. Blain’s grandfather earned four Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart from this event.

“My grandfather passed away while I was a child but his stories stuck in my head,” Blain said. “Then 9/11 happened and I remember feeling this sense of purpose. By serving in the military, I could make a positive impact in the world.”

This 27-year-old is not only a decorated war hero, but he is also an undergraduate student at APU, as well as a husband and father.

“Luckily, I have an amazing wife who is very supportive and helpful,” Blain said. “It can be difficult to be all three at the same time because school is so time consuming, and it takes away from my family time. However, I still find time with my wife and son.”

According to this dedicated family man, being overseas for two and a half years and having a family has changed his outlook on life. Fortunately, Blain was able to be present when his son was born, but a few days later, this new father had to return to Afghanistan to complete the last four months of his deployment.

“I was thinking of making the military a career, but having a son changed my priorities,” Blain said.

Blain’s new priorities led him to leave the Army and pursue an education. Knowing God is in control, this business student made the decision to attend APU after his siblings also came here to obtain higher education.

“Transitions can be very difficult. Moving across the country and getting out of the military and going back to school isn’t easy,” Blain said. “APU has been very helpful in ensuring my transition is as smooth as possible.”

According to Blain, it was the active veterans club whose members reached out and connected with him initially to aid with this transition.

Executive Director of the Office of Military and Veterans Resources (OMVR) Vic Bezjian has the opportunity to work with some of the most motivated students on campus. OMVR is the overarching office, which includes the Office of Military and Veterans Outreach.

“Matt Blain is a very passionate and humble person like most other veterans,” Bezjian said.

Blain is currently focused on taking care of his family, completing his education and possibly going to graduate school before he goes on to start his new career.

“I know he will succeed because he is very driven and focused to achieve whatever he sets his mind to achieve,” Bezjian said.

Bezjian encourages other students not to take for granted what these veterans have done to maintain the country’s freedom because whether or not students agree with the past wars or the politics involved, these soldiers have served and sacrificed a lot.

“Blain is a very humble person who cares deeply for his fellow veteran students,” Bezjian said. “It is not only Blain, but most veteran students who have the same qualities of camaraderie, teamwork and looking out for each other. All veterans are heroes as far as I am concerned.”