The Suffolk County Police Department, in New York, made history by enlisting a double amputee to be an active duty officer on Friday, March 24, 2017. Marine Veteran Matias Ferreira served to protect his country in Afghanistan and is now, officially on active duty, protecting his home turf as the believed first police officer using prosthetic limbs for both legs lost to a bomb.
The New York-based police officer emigrated as a child from his native Uruguay to Georgia, along with his family. Ferreira remembered going to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, where he first took notice of service members and police in uniforms. As a result, the young boy proudly announced to his father his wishes of growing up to have a career in the military or law enforcement.
Police Officer Ferreira Began as a Marine
Ferreira pursued his career dream by enlisting in the United States Marine Corps when he was 21 years old. Unfortunately, the young Marine did not know that his dream would be shattered only four months into his deployment to Afghanistan. The Lance Corporal machine-gunner had an assignment, on that 2011, night to free Musa Qala, a town taken over by the Taliban. The compound was cleared by the raid, and it was time to retrieve supplies.
I remember telling my guys, ‘Hey stay put. I’m going to go get the rest of the equipment. I’ll be right back.’ I jumped off the roof and I fell onto a 30-pound bomb.
The IED that was hidden in the ground destroyed both of Ferreira’s legs. He remembers the helicopter taking him to the hospital in Germany where doctors told him that both of his legs were lost. He had to begin his road to healing, which included recovering from a fractured pelvis and other severe injuries.
Recovery Efforts Lead to Police Officer Dreams
Ferreira gave himself orders for his own mission to recover. Rehabilitation was not going to be easy, but the Marine had the fortitude to fight to survive without giving in to depression. Spending approximately one year at Walter Reed Medical Center, Ferreira worked tirelessly to heal and to learn how to use his prosthetic legs. He got through by appreciating that he was given another chance to live. Specifically, Ferreira noted he survived an IED blast when most would not, and he was not ready to just give up.
With the support from his faith and family, Ferreira was walking within three months. Two months later he ran 5 miles in a race. He kept active by playing on the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team. In 2012, a softball game ended with a get together at a Long Island bar in Suffolk County. It was a moment of fate that his future wife, Tiffany was at the bar. The two are now parents to their daughter Tianna, who is 2 years old.
Remarkably, on the night of the couple’s wedding rehearsal dinner, Ferreira became a hero once more. As he drove to the celebration, he happened upon a car accident. The future police officer jumped into action to save a baby from the smoking crash debris. Proving his worth, as a lifesaver, to himself and others caused his wife’s cousin, a Suffolk County police officer, to encourage Ferreira to take the Police Civil Service test.
Becoming a Police Officer Proves a Success
In June 2015, the veteran took the test. Including military service academic credit, he achieved a perfect score of 100. The test was easy compared to the grueling physical 29 weeks of training that he had to get through as well to complete his quest of becoming a member of the police force.
In an effort to become an active duty officer Ferreira had to prove to be as fit on his titanium prosthetics as a fellow recruit was on their own two legs. He used humor to ease any questions. The now officer noted about a fellow trainee asking him what he would do if one of his legs broke. He simply joked, while someone with their own leg would be out for some months healing, that he could just grab a new one to put on and be ready.
Ferreira trained hard to become a police officer. Duly, he made it through all of the tests required for a recruit of his age. The Marine veteran even ran a mile and a half in under 12 minutes, 29 seconds that is the maximum time allotted. His fellow recruits held him in high esteem naming Ferreira, their class president to show unified support.
Suffolk Assistant Commissioner Justin Meyers made mention that the veteran is thought to be the first double amputee in the U.S. to serve as an active duty police officer. Ferreira was among over 40 other military veterans in his class of recruit graduates. Referring to the rookie officer, Police Commissioner Timothy Sini explains that Ferreira is exactly what they want in a cop.
This is someone who served our nation, paid a significant sacrifice, and is now able to overcome adversity in a tremendous way. He’s done a terrific job as a recruit in the academy, both physically, academically and in his leadership to the other recruits, and he’s going to make a fine officer.
The 28-year-old double amputee is formally on active duty as a police officer in the U.S. Specifically, Ferreira is starting his official duties by driving a police car patrolling Long Island with the Suffolk County Police Department 1st Precinct. His perseverance of a childhood dream, of not only serving in the military but also becoming a police officer, is now a reality.
By Carol Ruth Weber
Edited by Cathy Milne
Inside Edition: Veteran Becomes First Ever Double Amputee Police Officer
CNN: Double amputee police officer inspires others
Newsday: Double amputee who served in Afghanistan joins Suffolk police
CNN: Marine double amputee becomes cop in New York
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