UPDATE: Matt Homa returned to his hometown on December 8, 2003.
Army 2nd Lt. Matthew Homa ’02 is recovering well from serious injuries he sustained while on duty in Iraq.
While Homa’s platoon was on patrol, the armored Humvee he rode in was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED). His mother, Lou Ann Homa, wrote a description of what followed:
“Matt blacked out from the initial blast. He came to almost immediately, grabbed the radio mike, and did a quick survey of his men to see if anyone was hurt. He then noticed his sergeant was injured and called for a medic. It was right after that he realized that he was also injured. He called for the medic saying he was hit. The medic ran to Matt’s vehicle and jumped in just as Matt’s lung collapsed. The medic began to administer first aid, and they immediately got him to the base and called in the medevac helicopter. He stayed awake the entire time, as the medic would not allow him to pass out.
Right: Homa with his nurse and mom, followed by his dad and uncle
“He was air lifted to Al-Fallujah within fifteen minutes. We were notified less than two hours after his injuries that he was hurt and that he wasn’t expected to live more than 72 hours. They stabilized him and then transferred him to Landstuhl in Germany, where he received additional surgery. He was then sent to SICU at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Saturday, October 18. He arrived with a ventilator, four chest tubes, and several other lifesaving devices. He was strong and fought the sedatives to stay awake and to stay in touch with [his wife] Jen, his Dad, and me. He was breathing so well on his own that they removed him from the ventilator the next day and he started talking right away. He was moved to intermediate care on October 21, and he also met the vice president that day. He spent six days in ICU before being transferred to the cardiac step down unit, where his progress continued. On November 1 he received the sad news that his best friend, 2nd Lt. Todd Bryant, was killed by an IED near where he was injured.”
Major Paul Allmon, assistant professor of military science at IUP, visited Homa in mid-November and reported that he is doing much better. He wrote: “He is recovering well and is up and walking around. He was moved up to the physical therapy ward on November 16. They did some cosmetic surgery on him to close up some open wounds he had (skin grafts). He is not hooked up to any machines but still has some tubes in his body that are capped off. The funeral for his friend and fellow platoon leader, Lieutenant Bryant, is at Arlington National Cemetery this week. They are going to transport Matt there for the service and then back to the hospital.”
Homa took shrapnel in the vicinity of his right arm pit which traveled through both lungs and out the upper left chest, missing his other vital organs but blowing away part of his sternum. He has shrapnel burns on his right shoulder and left leg, and a ten-inch laceration on his right upper thigh (entrance wound of another piece of shrapnel which exited out of the inside of his right leg). He has a broken right thumb and limited use of his right hand, although he has regained a lot of movement in his right arm. He had two skin grafts, one on his left thigh and the other on his left chest. After the blast, he was checking on the status of his troops and did not realize immediately that he was injured. The medic on site was treating his injuries within thirty seconds, which proved to be the key in saving his life. Homa was evacuated to Baghdad International for surgery, which used thirty-six pints of blood, before being flown to Germany.
Homa was presented with a helmet signed by the IUP football team.
Homa was stationed in Fort Riley, Kan., before being deployed in Iraq as a tank platoon leader with the 1-34 Armor Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, in early September. Originally scheduled to return home in the fall of 2004, he was medically retired from the Army at 0730 Baghdad time on the date of his injury.
In the beginning of December, Homa was moved to the Malogne House located next to the hospital, and then returned to the Pittsburgh area.
Homa’s injuries caused his family’s financial situation to change dramatically. Donations are appreciated and can be sent to: 2LT Matthew Homa, Care of IUP Army ROTC, Pierce Hall, 1140 Maple Street, Indiana, PA 15705.
(Photos courtesy of Major Paul Allmon, November, 2003)