TROY (AP) – More than three months after he lost his left leg to an insurgent’s bomb in Iraq, and after undergoing 12 or 13 surgeries – he’s lost count of the precise number – Army Spc. Matthew Pennington says he has no cause for complaints.

Pennington, 23, has a prosthetic limb made of fiberglass and titanium. He and his wife, Marjorie, hope to buy some land between Winterport and Dexter, build a house and start a family. He plans to work with a company that matches businesses with disabled people who want to work from home by phone and computer.

“I got to come back home to my wife,” Pennington told the Morning Sentinel of Waterville. “I got almost all of our debts taken care of. Just that right there, I mean just knowing that we’re set for the rest of our lives. I still have a leg and I will be able to walk, so what’s really to complain about? I may have lost my leg but I’ve gained more good out of it than I have bad.”

Seated in a wheelchair in the backyard of his home in Troy, Pennington recalled the April 29 attack on the Humvee he was driving 12 miles north of Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.

“We were the lead scout vehicle,” he said. “Basically, we got blown up. We got hit with three 155-millimeter artillery rounds, and (detonating) cord. It was a plastic explosive. … (It) was command-wire detonated, we think, because we were shot at also during the bombing. There were five bullets in my door. I don’t remember being shot at; they just found the bullets in the door after the fact.”

His rear commander in Fort Bragg, N.C., notified Pennington’s wife, Marjorie, a short time later. “He told me that Matthew had been in an accident, that he was doing all right, that he was breathing and whatnot,” she said. “He said that he had an oxygen mask on, his body wasn’t keeping oxygen because he had lost so much blood, and that he lost his left foot and it was possible (he would lose) his right. They weren’t sure yet because it had severe damage to it.

“I started screaming and crying. And then I calmed down about an hour later when Matthew called me himself.”

She and Matthew’s mother met Pennington the following week at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He spent more than three months at the hospital, and now says he’s not the same person was before.

“I couldn’t explain it, just what I’ve gone through I guess,” he said. “I’ve changed, but there’s really no way to put words to it.”

While his leg wounds no longer hurt, he still suffers from “phantom pains” and takes about 10 pills a day. “I get a lot of pains and my body still thinks my foot’s there, but it’s not.”

Pennington attended Hampden Academy after moving with his mother to Winterport from Texas. He enlisted in the Army in 2001, prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

“There was really no reason, I just wanted to,” he said. “I had the desire to and I followed it. … Adventure, just something to do. I liked the adventure of it. I enjoyed it. I jumped out of airplanes and got paid for it.”

A turret gunner on a Humvee, he volunteered for three combat missions, serving in Afghanistan for six months, Iraq for 10 months, and again in Iraq for five months until his wounds sent him home.

“I wanted to go,” he said. “I enjoyed doing my job.”


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