LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - For a lot of students at the University of Kentucky, the first day of classes is a dream come true.
"This is something I’ve always wanted to do and the goal that I’ve always put down, but never knew if I could actually check it off,” said Matt Bradford.
A lot of them may have faced a tough road to get here, but perhaps none quite as challenging as Bradford’s. He’s 28 years old, in a little different place than most first-year students. That’s because he’s been busy with other things.
"I thought it was my duty to give back to my country and serve protect our homeland where my family and friends live," he said.
Bradford joined the Marines. He deployed to Iraq in September 2006. On January 18, 2007, he stepped on an IED and lost both of his legs and his vision.
“That kind of changed my life because I didn’t have any goals before. My ultimate goal was to stay in the Marine Corps as long as possible and see where it goes from there,” Bradford said.
Bradford actually did stay in a few more years, but eventually, his wife Amanda brought up the idea of fulfilling another dream.
"She actually mentioned it to me, ‘Let’s go back to Lexington, let’s attend the University of Kentucky. It’s your dream, it’s your goal, let’s do it’,” he said.
This week, Bradford took his first steps on the campus of the University of Kentucky as a student. A lot of his peers are here straight out of high school, but there are some who can relate to him. He's taking the Veterans Resource Center UK 101 class with other veterans. It’s meant to help bridge the gap between student-veterans and the rest of campus. Bradford’s not on a base anymore, but he still has the support of his fellow veterans. His passion for the blue and white across the rest of campus is apparent.
"I certainly show my fandom with the UK gear, and the UK prosthetic eye, and the prosthetic leg. I saw Willie Cauley Stein earlier and the first thing I could think of was, gosh can I have a picture?"
Looking back on the past seven years, Bradford said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
"If I had the opportunity to go back and not step on the bomb, then I wouldn’t do it because the road that it led me down, I met some great people, I met my wife, we have kids now. Great home, great community that we live in. It’s just a great life. I wouldn’t change it for a thing," Bradford said.