Sergeant First Class Matthew Caiazzo during medical operations. Photo by: Kevin T. Stoll

In between helping to run the dining department at Bowdoin College, Sergeant First Class Matthew Caiazzo recently finished up a six-month tour managing surgical teams in Southern Afghanistan.

“I ran one team, and the commander ran the other team, and so we had to manage the two teams and the traumas that they received,” said Caiazzo. “The nature of the work is difficult and is difficult for some people to even cope with.”

Over the course of deployment from October 2020 to May 2021, Caiazzo’s unit aided around 20 patients, treating wounds from gunshots and bomb blasts as well as internal injuries. His key responsibilities, Caiazzo said, included coordinating patients, inventory and blood supply as well as supporting his team, which consisted of surgeons, nurses, medics and operating room specialists.

In total, Caiazzo — a 43-year-old father, Maine native and current Westbrook resident — has served about two decades as an army reservist medic, enrolling shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and offering medical support in countries like Iraq, Guatemala, Cameroon and Haiti.

Today, he is back working for the college’s dining services in Brunswick, and last month, he received a Bronze Star for his work in Afghanistan — the same award bestowed upon his grandfather for his submarine service in World War II.

A Bronze Star is a U.S. military decoration given to members of the armed forces who display an act or acts of heroic or meritorious achievement or overall service. Caiazzo’s award is dedicated for “exceptionally meritorious service.”

“It’s part of my legacy, and my family’s legacy,” Caiazzo said. “It means a lot to be able to do the same.”

Sergeant First Class Matthew Caiazzo. Photo by: Kevin T. Stoll

While the award would typically be given through a ceremony, due to his reserve status, Caiazzo’s only learned he won the award once it arrived in the mail.

“It’s hard to explain the feelings that you get with your accomplishments and the impacts you have as an individual,” Caiazzo said. “But to know that I made a difference in that person’s life or a solider in my team … . I consider those people my family now.”

Reflecting on Veterans Day, Caiazzo views it as an opportunity not only to thank veterans but to offer recognition.

“Being in the reserves, or being in active duty, you make a sacrifice, and it affects your children, your wife, your husband,” Caiazzo said. “It’s good to thank them for the service, but (also) to recognize their sacrifice.”

Back on campus, according to Bowdoin College Dining Service Interim Director Kenneth Cardone, Caiazzo — who has been with Bowdoin College for about eight years — continues to play a critical role.

“Matt handles a wide variety of duties and is involved in every major dining service event hosted on campus when a multi-unit effort is required,” said Cardone. “We certainly put his logistics skills to good use on a daily basis.”

In addition, Cardone said, Caiazzo oversees purchasing contracts with vendors, coordinates the arrival of food and supplies during three dining operations, works with student groups on local food purchasing and handles human resources tasks for the department.

Caiazzo said he plans to remain in the reserves for the foreseeable future. To read more about Caiazzo, visit Bowdoin.edu

Sergeant First Class Matthew Caiazzo training with a dog handler. Photo by: Kevin T. Stoll


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