My name is Matthew Small. This family picture above includes me and my grandfather.
From left to right, it goes: me, my grandfather Richard, my actual father David, my little brother Thomas and in front is my nephew Blake. This picture was Christmas six or seven years ago.
My grandfather was a Marine. My brother and I were both in the Army, but it was that Marine who inspired me to not only give to those around me, but to the whole country.
I fought in Afghanistan in 2006 and was hit by a mortar shell, one of the scariest experiences of my life.
Even so, I wanted nothing more than to make my grandfather proud, especially because he took me in at the age of 7, gave me a home, and he did not have to do that
I remember that if somebody – anytime anywhere – needed the tiniest bit of help, that man was there no matter what. If someone tried to compensate him for his time, he would not allow it. As hard as he was on me, I have always said that if I could be half a man that my grandfather was, I think I’d be doing pretty good.
Unfortunately this man died a couple years ago. And I was finally able to make him proud. He would be proud of who I had become. For about 12 years post my time in OEF 7, due to my injuries, I was an opiate addict.
I tried many times to get clean, but I failed a lot because I was trying to look like I was clean and used trickery so I could still use.
The last time I saw my grandfather I was able to look him in the eye and tell him I had been clean for six months, and for the first time it was 100 percent true.
And he believed me.
It was Christmas day. His recognition of my recovery was the best gift I could ever ask for.
Today I’ve been clean for four years and feel like I am alive again!
Thank you grandpa for being my father, so that now I get to be the best father I can be for my girls.
~ Matthew Small, Tribal S-1 Warrior Sons