A U.S. Army veteran living in Ephrata was featured in a Joe Biden presidential campaign television ad that ran during Sunday night’s NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams.
Matt Woodburn, 40, says in the ad, “My friends, they are not suckers,” a reference to an article published in The Atlantic that claimed President Trump used that insult to describe Americans who were drafted during the Vietnam War.
“I did not join the United States Army for me. I joined because I love this nation,” Woodburn says.
Woodburn served in the Army for five years and was deployed to Iraq for two tours, from 2005-06 and then again from 2007-08.
According to Woodburn, Biden’s presidential campaign contacted him after his wife, Kristi, posted a photo of Woodburn from one of his returns from Iraq to the “PA Women for Biden” Facebook group.
Woodburn didn’t think the Biden campaign would air the commercial after he filmed it more than a month ago.
The 30-second commercial features Woodburn walking in leg braces, which he wears following a 2015 diagnosis of muscular atrophy. He also mentions the post-traumatic stress disorder he’s experienced since shortly after he returned from Iraq.
“Honest to goodness, I almost gave up my license,” Woodburn said, saying it sometimes triggered PTSD-related anxiety.
“A week or so ago, I was driving ... and I saw a piece of garbage in the middle of the road and my heart stopped. It’s been 12 years I’ve been out, and I had a physiological response to a piece of trash in the middle of the road,” he said.
Soldiers in Iraq were trained to watch for objects on or along the road as insurgents targeted coalition forces with improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
It’s taken him several years -- and a lot of therapy -- to begin to recover, but Woodburn said he believes he lives a blessed life.
Woodburn said he’s mostly voted for Democrats in the past. When asked about Trump’s support for veterans, he instead noted the many organizations that have helped him and his family, such as the disability services organization Joni and Friends and Canine Companions for Independence.
A Trump campaign spokesperson for Pennsylvania said in a statement the president has “an unmatched track record of fighting for our veterans,” noting $8.6 billion in resources for veterans’ mental health services.
“Pennsylvanians who have bravely served our nation abroad and at home deserve the level of care that only President Trump has fought for and delivered,” said spokesperson Rachel Lee.
Woodburn said he made the decision to join the Army right after watching the Twin Towers fall on September 11, 2001, He joined after graduating Mansfield University with a chemistry degree in 2003, and went on to train as a nuclear biological chemical specialist.
Noting his specialized military training, Woodburn said he watched the coronavirus take over America as “a slow moving disaster.”
Woodburn believes Biden is the best option because at the most basic level, Biden will take the advice of scientists and experts to mitigate the coronavirus.
“I honestly believe Joe will listen to the doctors, the people who are way smarter than me,” Woodburn said. “I trained in the Army to do this, but man, I’m looking at it and we shouldn’t be number one in deaths and cases in the world.”
Woodburn moved to Lancaster after he joined the Army. He now lives with his wife, three children and service dog Julian.