Iraq war veteran who lost both legs in bomb attack misses out on $2,000 cash prize after missing football game so he could look after his elderly grandmother

  • Former soldier injured in Baghdad is main carer for 87-year-old
  • Matthew Zajac unable to collect winnings from university scheme to boost match attendance 

By Jessica Jerreat

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An Iraq war veteran who lost both his legs in an IED attack missed out on a $2,000 prize at his university's football game.

Crowds of students at New Mexico State University were surprised when the winner of a cash prize was announced last Saturday, but failed to come forward.

But, although friends texted Matthew Zajac to tell him of his good fortune, the double amputee says he wouldn't have been able to get to the game because he was caring for his elderly grandmother.

Lost opportunity: Matthew Zajac missed out on the chance to claim a $2,000 prize

Lost opportunity: Matthew Zajac missed out on the chance to claim a $2,000 prize

Although he admits it would have been nice to win the cash, Mr Zajac has remained upbeat, telling ABC News: 'I’m sure there are people that need it more than I do.'

The cash prize was part of a university scheme to encourage more students to support their football team, the Aggies.

But, to be in with a chance of winning, students had to be at the whole game when their name was drawn.

'There is no way I would’ve been able to make it to the game anyway. I was taking care of my grandmother, who is 87,' Mr Zajac, a mechanical engineering student, said.

Veteran: Matthew Zajac served in Iraq with the U.S. Army

Veteran: Matthew Zajac served in Iraq with the U.S. Army

Injured: The mechanical engineering student lost both legs when he served in Iraq

Injured: The mechanical engineering student lost both legs when he served in Iraq

'There’s always stuff to do around the house, and I got to make sure she gets her medicine and that I get it to her on time,' he added.

The 26-year-old student has been the main carer for his grandmother, Marjorie Seedorf, since his father died last year. 

The Iraq War veteran had his right leg amputated above the knee and left leg amputated below the knee after his Humvee hit an IED in Baghdad in May 2007.

 

'I do a little bit of walking, and I can usually muscle through it though,' Mr Zajac said.

'He cooks for me, he shops for me and he takes me to the doctor,' his grandmother told the Albuquerque Journal. 'I appreciate everything he does.'

Last Saturday's game against San Diego State University was the first time students were offered cash prizes for attending the game.

All the students' names were entered into the draw, not just those there on the day, KRQE reported.

Game plan: New Mexico University is offering cash prizes to students who attend its football games

Game plan: New Mexico University is offering cash prizes to students who attend its football games

The university's athletics director, David McCollum, said the football team would continue to offer incentives to fans, and confirmed that Mr Zajac would not be eligible to collect the prize under the competition's rules.

He added: 'We are delighted this program gave us an opportunity to learn more about one of our students ... We are considering ways to recognize [Mr Zajac] and his service to our country.'

Despite the prize fund going uncollected, Mr Zajac has a positive outlook, saying any day he 'doesn't get blown up is a good day'.

The comments below have not been moderated.

He's hot, give him whatever he wants.

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Where do we contribute?..... oh, I see the link thanks..

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He is cute, AND nice! Well I'll be damned

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Is there a story here for anyone not obsessed by the military?

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It's not a military story per se, it's a story about a college student who missed out on a cash prize because he was taking care of his grandmother.

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@ ccblums, Concord, United States - @ ccblums, Concord, United States - He missed out because he wasn't there. Rules are rules in this system people like you have created - so what is the problem, he broke a rule?

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He is hot! And a nice guy. So rare

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What an amazing guy.

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I did some research, if you want to get in touch with Matthew Zajac so he can get the price send him money; Try to get in touch with University Athletic Director David McCollum, this is his phone number at New Mexico State University: David E. McCollum Send E-Mail (575) 646-6851 Work Deputy Dir,Athletics Athletics (575) 646-6851 I'll try to call him on Monday, how I can send money to Matthew.

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Lovely man!

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HERO! Family first. Not looking for a prize or handout. Real American values. Real American hero. Progressive, liberal Democrats will not understand his reluctance to take the money or his service to country and family.

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Why...why..is that all you people see are Democrats and Republicans? So, by not taking the money he is a republican? This just does not make any sense. You people scare me! Do you really believe only Republicans are fighting and enlisting in the military? Seek help. This is about a young man who continues to do honorable things in life! This from a liberal democrat. I have brothers and cousins in the military for well over 25 years! This is not political!

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His voting record was not mentioned, and because we vote by secret ballot, you couldn't know how (or if he voted). This is not a political story, so please take yours to one that is.

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Rules are Rules. Having lost his legs in war ( thank you for your service), it should be noted his take home pay, non taxable, is more than likely over 7,000.00 a month plus free healthcare, for life ( money and care).

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Yea, and he has NO LEGS!!! I'd say he's more than earned any money or benefits coming his way.

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You are insane if you think he is getting anywhere near $7000 a month! 100% disability without dependants from the VA is $2816.00 If he is a fulltime student using the GI Bill, which he earned, he's getting about $1500 a month max stipend. I'm no math major but that comes out to about $4400 a month. Not chump change but not $7000. And no, I wouldn't trade places with him.

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