Mortgage-free home under construction for wounded vet with Tri-City ties

By Annie Charnley Eveland
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

A wounded Army staff sergeant with Tri-City ties soon will move into a new mortgage-free home.

Ellis “Jerry” Majetich and his family have officially broken ground on their future home in Ponte Vedra, Florida. This is the first PulteGroup’s Built to Honor home donated in a Del Webb 55-and-older community.

A crowd of residents and future neighbors lined the community streets to welcome the Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient and his wife Mary Ella when they saw their future home site for the first time.

“Nothing has ever been given to us; everything we have we’ve worked for,” Majetich said in a news release. “We are both still overwhelmed with emotions – so thankful for everyone who is a part of this. To try to put our feelings into words is impossible, but we’re going to strive to pay it forward for the rest of our lives.”

Majetich joined the military out of Kennewick in 1988 because he wanted to better his life while serving and protecting his country. The Kennewick High graduate never expected to make medical history.

But one roadside bomb, eight Iraqi insurgents, a traumatic brain injury, severe burns, multiple injuries, 82 subsequent surgeries eventually earned him a place in medical history.

Majetich’s journey out of hell started with the 2005 ambush in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Because of his military training and assignments, “Jerry was on an insurgent hit list. They had bounties on him,” said brother Tom Majetich of Walla Walla. He told the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin that Jerry was blown up by an IED while in a Humvee. The two guys with him were never found, Tom said. His captain pulled him out of the rig and he was able to return fire.

In addition to the injuries from the explosion, he was shot in the right shoulder and three times in the right leg. He suffered burns on more than one-third of his body, including his face and scalp, the loss of his ears and nose, right hand and fingers on his left hand to amputation, the removal of part of his intestines and stomach, a fractured spine and left foot. He also suffers from PTSD.

“We got the call that they didn’t think he’d make it,” Tom said. Jerry’s five brothers, including one from West Richland, flew to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to see him in the burn center.

It’s been a long haul for Jerry but along the way he has gone to military bases to speak with other soldiers.

“He gives them ideas, helps them get off morphine, helps the wounded and suicidal,” Tom said.

Over time, all the brothers helped care for him. In 2006, Tom, who works in information technology at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, took three months family leave to help Jerry’s family in Texas. “They were pretty messed up at that time,” he said.

The home under construction for Jerry in Florida is a good place for him to be because of the proximity to VA medical facilities, Tom said. “There’s a lot of help out there. It’s really great what they’re doing for the veterans, especially with the house for Jerry and his family,” Tom said.  Jerry’s family includes his wife, Mary Ellen, and daughter, Katy Majetich.

Jerry’s six brothers were all stationed overseas at one point, Tom said.

Richard Posio of Michigan, served with the Army in Korea in the later 1970s; Tom Majetich, served in armored tanks in the Army; Ben Majetich, who is West Richland chief of police, was in Army combat mortar platoons at Fort Hood Texas; David Majetich of Cohutta, Georgia, was with the Army military police at Fort Stewart in Hinesville, Georgia; and Hank Majetich, was a former Army MP in Texas and now a police lieutenant in Redmond, Oregon.

Jerry, the youngest, first served four years with the U.S. Marine Corps in ship security on an aircraft carrier, before serving 15 years in the Army, including with psychological operations in Iraq. He was honorably discharged in 2007.

The boys’ mom, Margaret Majetich, lives in West Palm Beach, Florida. She brings the tradition of military service to her family, too. She was stationed as an Army nurse in Germany in the late 1950s. She’s particularly proud of a letter she received in 1994 from an Army colonel recognizing her contributions toward all six of her sons who served in the Army.

WTLV-TV First Coast News reported on May 25, 2021, that Jerry was the “first person in the world to have an experimental surgery on an upper extremity that could revolutionize prosthetics.”

His mangled right hand had been a 15-year source of unceasing pain, and in 2020, he chose to have it amputated. He told Tom, “ ‘I’ve been in pain … for years.’ I understood after the amputation because it relieved the pain,” Tom said. “Jerry’s happy and feels so much better.”

Jerry had endured a 17-hour surgery on that hand, but it failed. He told them to take it off. “For me, the pain being gone has changed my life,” he told WTLV.

Post amputation, Jerry volunteered to have an experimental surgery using an AMI procedure. The agonist-antagonist myoneural interface method could revolutionize prosthetics, the WTLV story noted. The hope is it will help alleviate phantom pain and lead to better prosthetic function.

Tom and Jerry are hope these developments can help others.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to help the veterans that follow because you know, there are, there will be other wars, there’ll be other amputations and I want to make sure that things are better for those that fall behind me,” Jerry told WTLV.

The Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business contributed to this report.

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