Tech. Sgt. Christopher “Matthew” Slaydon insists he’s nobody special. But the 38-year-old explosive ordnance disposal team leader is so extraordinary that Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz made it a point to attend his retirement ceremony Thursday at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.
“I’ve been given a lot of credit for being an American hero and a patriot and I’ve done this incredibly dangerous job,” Slaydon said. “The truth of the matter is I haven’t done anything any of my EOD brothers and sisters in all four services haven’t done. I’m just another EOD guy doing his job.”
Almost two years ago, while on duty in Iraq, Slaydon was seriously wounded when an improvised explosive device exploded just two feet from his face. His incredible recovery and comeback were celebrated Thursday as he culminated a 16-year career in uniform.
On Oct. 24, 2007, Slaydon and his counter-IED team were called by an Army unit that had found a suspected IED while on patrol about 20 miles south of Kirkuk, Iraq.
Slaydon and his team responded, arriving at a T-intersection near a hostile village where they had encountered IEDs before.
After about an hour, unable to find any explosives, Slaydon decided to wrap up the mission.
“As my final task as a team leader, I do what’s known as the long walk,” he said. “I got out of the truck and I was sweeping the area on foot … [when] I saw something that looked odd.”
Slaydon yelled at an Office of Special Investigations agent who had also exited the team’s Joint EOD Rapid Response Vehicle to take cover.
He then knelt down and poked the dirt with his mine probe.
About 15 pounds of high explosives detonated just two feet from Slaydon’s face.
“The fact that it didn’t blow me to pieces is amazing,” he said.
The blast mangled Slaydon’s left arm, destroyed his left eye, shattered his face and threw him about 20 feet.