LONGPORT – American Legion Post 469 is gearing-up for its fourth annual Wounded Warrior Week, when it sponsors an all-expenses-paid visit to the Jersey Shore for a Purple Heart recipient and his family. 

In the previous three years, Post 469 has sponsored vacations for two Army sergeants and a Navy lieutenant. This year the Wounded Warrior guest will be Marine Cpl. Patrick Matisi.

Matisi enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2005 as a combat engineer. After boot camp, he was stationed in Yuma, Ariz., and deployed to Iraq in 2007. In 2008, he re-enlisted and moved to Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he reported to the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion.

He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009-2010 where he took part in the invasion of Marjah, the biggest offensive since the war began. After a short period back home, Matisi returned to Afghanistan and on July 16, 2011, was shot by an enemy sniper while checking a rooftop for explosive devices. 

The shattered his right arm before it entered his side, leaving a huge exit wound in his chest. Matisi’s life was saved by a Navy corpsman who has since become one of his closest friends. Once stabilized, Matisi was sent back to the United States where he began the long road to recovery. 

Matisi was not alone through much of his lengthy series of operations and rehabilitation.

While growing up in the Chicago area, a girl named Sasha was a neighborhood friend who lived on the same block and went to the same schools. They enjoyed the same close circle of friends and Matisi wanted to date Sasha, while Sasha was intent on preserving their special friendship.

Every time Patrick would ask her out, Sasha would say a friendly, “No thank you…”

That changed when Sasha learned that Patrick had been wounded and near death. 

“After hearing Patrick was severely injured, something inside of me changed,” Sasha said. “I had known him most of my life and I just couldn’t picture my life without him. I didn’t want him to be in pain alone.”

When Sasha reached out to her childhood friend and Matisi half-jokingly asked her for a date; Sasha finally said yes.

In August of 2012 they were married in Chicago in front of friends and family. They settled in Camp Lejeune while Patrick was at the Wounded Warrior Battalion and processing through medical boards. 

For the Matisis, the last couple of years have been a whirlwind with moving, medical boards, surgeries, rehabilitation and more surgeries.

“We are pillars for each other and we continue to make it through with perseverance and optimism,” Sasha said, adding that support is very important. “Too many of Patrick’s Marine brothers have been lost to suicide or depression when they get out. We both are passionate about helping other vets, in whatever capacity, to prove that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Life is truly a gift and we appreciate each and every day immensely. In December, we will be welcoming our first child to the world and we couldn’t’ be happier.”

Patrick Matisi was medically retired from the Marine Corps in 2013 with a Purple Heart among his many medals. He and Sasha are now living and working in the Washington, D.C., area, and looking forward to their September vacation at the Jersey Shore.

“This getaway will give us a welcome reprieve from our everyday stressors as well as allow us a special way to celebrate our upcoming baby. We are so thankful for this wonderful opportunity,” he said.

American Legion Post 469 will coordinate the effort to make Wounded Warrior Week 2015 an unforgettable event for the Matisis.

“The Legion sees this as a community effort as well, where local folks can demonstrate their support for our troops through their support of this year’s Wounded Warrior,” said post Cmdr. Larry Pacentrilli.

The Matisis will arrive Sept. 18, welcomed by a beach block barbecue where supporters will be invited to meet and greet them.

Contributions of any kind are welcome and can be sent to: American Legion Post 469, P.O. Box 441, Longport, NJ 08403.

For more information, contact Pacentrilli at 609-487-7817 or lapace@comcast.net.

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