Double-amputee Marine vet makes history with remarkable achievement

Police academy amputee

BRENTWOOD, N.Y. -- Making it through seven months of police training is a big achievement for anyone. But for one recruit at the Suffolk County police academy on Long Island, New York, the accomplishment borders on the miraculous.

d2-hartman-otr-amputee-0324-811086.jpg
Matias Ferreira at graduation CBS News

“I just got chills. I hear the pipe band play drums and this beat going through my body. Have this pride going through you.  You completed this dream that you didn’t know you could complete,” said Matias Ferreira after graduating Friday.

The 28-year-old used to be a Marine and served in Afghanistan. In 2011, he stepped on an improvised explosive device and lost both legs from the knee down.

It was a nightmare, and the end of a childhood dream.

d2-hartman-otr-amputee-0324-8110864.jpg
Matias Ferreira CBS News

Matias immigrated to America from Uruguay at the age of six. Not long after, he saw a Marine in dress blues.

“That’s what I want to be when I grow up,” he thought, right then and there. 

The plan was to stay a Marine for life -- until he lost his legs and had to come up with a new plan to serve.

“So I started looking at the police department to see if they would take me with the situation of the prosthetics,” he said. “I just kept Googling ‘prosthetics,’ ‘officer with prosthetics,’ and nothing came up. I couldn’t find anything.”

Because nobody had done it.

“I was going in blind. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Matias said.

As best anyone could tell, there had never been a full-time, active duty, double amputee police officer. But that didn’t stop Matias.

d2-hartman-otr-amputee-0324-8110863.jpg
Matias during his training Suffolk County police

He applied like everyone else. Really the only special accommodation he wanted was that he not get any special accommodations. 

“If I can do it myself, I earned it. If someone else helped me, I wouldn’t have wanted it. It wouldn’t have been fair to me or the officers behind me,” he said.

So he went through the same exact training. Some in the department were curious -- if he fell trying to apprehend a subject, could he even get up? And he answered that, too.

d2-hartman-otr-amputee-0324-8110862.jpg
Matias hugs his wife and daughter at the graduation ceremony CBS News

Which brings us here. On Friday, Matias not only graduated, he graduated class president, with a wife and daughter who were clearly proud.

After losing his legs, Matias said he knew if he worked hard, another door would open.

And here he is, on the glorious other side of that threshold.

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, email us: OnTheRoad@cbsnews.com. 

  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.