Marine survives two attacks

By Lisa Horn
Montgomery Advertiser
September 12, 2006

In his two years as a Marine, Lance Cpl. Matthew Renfroe has experienced what few troops will see in a lifetime.

The ribbons on his chest prove it.

In May and June, the Prattville native was wounded in two attacks while traveling in Humvee convoys in Iraq. The injuries he sustained earned him two Purple Hearts for wounds received in combat.

Both incidents left him with concussions that still affect his short-term memory and the second, more severe attack, burst his eardrums, leaving him deaf for a week.

"I forget everything. Someone will tell me something in the morning and I will forget it by the afternoon," Renfroe said. "If I don't write it down, I'll forget it."

Renfroe, a member of the 1st Battalion,1st Marine Regiment, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., is lucky, he said. Some of his fellow Marines did not come home.

Since the Iraq war began in March 2003, 11 Marines from the unit have been killed and 181 have been wounded, said Lt. Esteban Vickers, a Marine spokesman at Camp Pendleton.

After returning to the U.S. in July, the soft spoken 20-year-old is on leave visiting family in Prattville and working at the same Marine Corps recruiting station where he enlisted in March 2005.

Despite his quiet nature, he has a firm resolve, said the Marine's mother, Denise Renfroe. At no time was that more apparent, she said, than when her son decided to join the Marine Corps.

"He'd always been independent in his own way. He told us that the Marines were the best and that's why he wanted to join," she said. "There was no talking him out of it."

An avid hunter and fisherman, Renfroe said he has no regrets about his time in the Marines. He has considered re-enlisting when his service contract expires in 2009.

"It's just something I always wanted to do," Renfroe said.

Lowndes Academy football coach and science teacher Art Sullivan saw the potential in Renfroe during his high school years.

"He was smart and fast and could run the ball well," said Sullivan, who ensured the former Rebel tight end was recognized at a recent Friday night home game.

But he added, laughing, "He was quick to tell me he didn't want to make a speech. You can tell he's a different person, more appreciative of stuff and (has) a sense of responsibility."

Gunnery Sgt. Gregory Moses, a Marine recruiter in Prattville, said Renfroe has been an asset to the recruiting station during his brief time there.

"When people have questions about being over there in Iraq, they can ask him because he's been there and did those things. We (Moses and the other recruiters) haven't been over there, so they can ask him directly; he has firsthand knowledge of it."

That firsthand knowledge has fostered a level of maturity that is hard for a mother to describe.

"He's changed so much," Denise Renfroe said. "I can't imagine the things he's seen and gone through. You just can't imagine."