Local wounded warrior SSG Edward Matayka and his family now have a place to call home, thanks to the (501)(c)(3) nonprofit organization Helping A Hero. This morning, in a special ‘Welcome Home Ceremony,’ special guest, Major General Tony Cucolo, Vice Chancellor of Military Affairs for the University of Texas System and former Commandant for the US Army War College, joined together with over 100 community and military leaders to show their support as Helping A Hero handed over the keys to SSG Matayka and his family to their new residence. The house was custom-built with special adaptations to meet Matayka’s special needs as a double amputee with traumatic brain injury.
Thanks to the generous two acre lot donation by the Bridlegate developer, Southerland Communities, and the hundreds of hours donated by Kenny Mantor and his team at HMC Construction coupled with a multitude of subs and suppliers who also donated labor and materials, SSG Matayka, his wife, Karen and their two 2 1/2 year old twins, Ryan and Alana, now have a house the whole family will enjoy — complete with wider, wheelchair-accessible doors, a roll in shower, roll under sinks, adapted toilet areas, a caregiver suite, an exercise room and other safety features and adaptations to make Ed’s daily life easier.
It was the Mataykas’ heartwarming story of love and triumph that drew the Houston-based organization, Helping A Hero, to the Mataykas. Ed and Karen met during training to become Army Medics in 2004, and just six short years later, while on patrol duty of the Bagram security zone in Afghanistan, Ed was hit by an IED explosion that left him severely injured. Karen, also an Army Medic in the National Guard, immediately rushed to his side to ensure he received the best possible care. After over 23 surgeries, he was left as a double amputee with traumatic brain injury and a multitude of other permanent injuries.
During their rehabilitation, and while adjusting to the new normal of Ed being confined to a power wheelchair, Ed and Karen wanted to start their family. They struggled to conceive, and ultimately were the first couple approved to undergo InVitro Fertilization paid for by TriCare, the Army’s medical insurance. The Mataykas, now proud parents of twins, are passionate advocates of making sure InVitro is available to other wounded warriors who desperately want to have children of their own.
“Ed and Karen are examples of patriotism and love in action,” said Meredith Iler, Chairman Emeritus and Founder of the Home Program at Helping A Hero.
“They love this country, they love each other, they love their kids, and they make an impact in everything they do. When Ed was hit by the IED, Karen, an Army Medic in the National Guard rushed to his side. She was there, making sure he got the care he needed. Her commitment to his recovery, has helped Ed not just survive, but thrive,” Iler added.
Building a handicap accessible home is expensive and attention to detail is critical. Helping A Hero’s model combines resources to stretch donor dollars in building these homes, and asks the builder to donate their services, working with them to secure in-kind donations and material. Many longtime supporters of Helping A Hero stepped up once again to donate to the Matayka’s build, like Keystone Concrete, Steve’s Doors, McCoy’s, ABC Supply, Daughters of The American Revolution (DAR), Moonlight Fund and many more.
Since 2006, Helping A Hero has awarded over 100 homes in 22 states. The program has four key components: commitment by the veteran to live in the home for a minimum of 10 years, use of the Specially Adapted Housing Grant from the VA, investment of a minimum of $50,000 plus any selected upgrades beyond the Helping A Hero budget, and up to $100,000 of Helping A Hero funds towards the build price of the home.
For more information on Helping A Hero, please visit helpingahero.org