Since he was in the fifth grade, Spc. Matthew Peite knew he wanted to be in the military. He had big dreams to get out of his small town and see the world.
“I’m from a small town in Idaho you’ve probably never heard of- Mullan Idaho,” he says with a laugh. It’s no joke, he will be returning to Mullan, Idaho after a short career in the Army due to an injury.
“In November 2021 I was preparing to deploy to Kuwait. We were training down in Texas and New Mexico. One day, we had a six-mile ruck march with 80-pound packs. On mile four my foot snapped. I didn’t realize at the time it was that bad, so I finished my six-mile ruck march,” said the twenty-one-year-old Fire Support Specialist.
After the march, Peite went to clean up, he took his left foot out of the boot and said the grapefruit size swelling began. “My toes were purple my foot swelled up immediately and I was like, that doesn’t look healthy.”
Thinking the swelling would go down after icing, he waited a day. He ended up at the Emergency Room while in Texas where they had him go through a battery of tests. Three weeks after the injury, tests were inconclusive due to the severe swelling. He received a boot, crutches, and orders to the Joint Base Lewis McCord Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU).
“When I got to JBLM the orthopedic surgeon had more x-rays of my foot and this time it was obvious. He said you broke your entire foot in half.”
He had crutches until June 2022 and then a scooter until August 2022. He also had an epiphany about having a twenty-year career in the Army vanish.
“When I first showed up here, I was broken bad. I was beating myself up because I couldn’t walk, I worried about my future in the Army and my life was upside down. The folks at the SRU encouraged me to try things to help get a grip on my situation. It was more than helpful. I now had the mental will to want to do better. I want to do more so I can be ready.”
Adaptive reconditioning and learning about the educational opportunities provided in the SRU would prove to be a great path to Peite’s new normal.
“I am so thankful for all the treatment and care I’ve gotten here at JBLM because I don’t think I would be as far along in my progress or have such high hopes for what my future holds if it wasn’t for this place. I’m walking now so that’s a plus. I have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. It’s a condition that affects the nerves so all the nerves in my foot and ankle fire continuously 24 hours a day – nothing but pain signals,” he explained.
The Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, also called RSD, compounds the issue with Peite’s healing broke foot. He is in the process of becoming medically retired in a few months. His thoughts are focused on life after the Army.
“I’m not sure how long I will be able to work again. My condition will progress and eventually I won’t be able to walk,” said Peite.
Luckily while in the SRU Piete took advantage of classes to help in his future search for work.
“In the Career Skills program they introduced me to a variety of classes and I graduated from a roofing class that will help me tremendously.”
He wants to work in the building industry when he returns home to Idaho for as long as he can. “I have experience in that and I eventually want to open my own remodeling business.”
Peite acknowledges the confidence building that happens when you apply yourself and take advantage of opportunities at the SRU.
“I’m learning wake surfing – I met former Team Army athlete Anthony Farve who is an amputee who surfs. He’s an inspiration to watch,” said Peite who says he’s grateful for everyone in the SRU who tested his limits and pushed him farther into recovery.
Even though his Army career was cut short, he hopes to be a positive example for other Soldiers who may one day need the SRU.
“Do everything you can here, the SRU provides so much opportunity and so many benefits for the Soldier. Do as much as you can here that you are mentally and physically able to do. You will benefit from it far more than you realize.”