Readers of this blog will be familiar with Linda Ferrara, author of Why we fight: Because "all of humanity is our tribe". Linda emailed the other day with a link to an article she's written about her son Matt for New Zealand's The Listener. Linda is a native New Zealander, and as a dual US-New Zealand national, and Matt was the first New Zealander to die while serving in the war in Afghanistan.
In the article she shares moments like the dreaded knock at the door early that November morning ("One of my babies was gone. I knew it – they didn’t have to say anything."), the calls she and her husband had to make to Matt's siblings ("I discover there is no kind or gentle way to say, “Your brother is dead.”"), and the subsequent gathering of the family ("Friends arrive, food appears.").
But mostly she shares memories about Matt's life, as only a proud and loving mother can.
He sent us all into a panic when he was barely two, leaving the house on his own and walking over to the tennis courts at the local high school.
He could disappear in a store in a flash, leaving me at first angry, then frantic when I could not find him, and no amount of reasoning or threats could dissuade him from this practice. He felt safe and completely at ease and could not understand my anxiety.
I never cured him of this habit; the only thing that changed was that it was not as bad to lose a 10-year-old as a two-year-old.
He was smart, very smart, and I often felt he knew more than the rest of us, and along with his strong will, he was also brave.
Evidence of his bravery and his intelligence continued later when he followed in his older brother's footsteps and was accepted at West Point.
Just a few months after he entered West Point, the future of the United States was violently changed by the events of September 11, 2001. Matt was not intimidated by the thought of what this meant.
He graduated from West Point in May 2005, near the top of his class, with a major in Chinese and economics. He joined the infantry, and after graduation became a ranger, and was assigned to the 173rd Airborne in Vicenza, Italy, a choice post.
What a wonderful like he had! Matt witnessed the Iraqi elections during his 2004 deployment, and the year before going to Afghanistan he travelled all over Europe "running with the bulls, jumping off cliffs in Croatia, scuba diving wrecks in the Mediterranean, skiing the Alps, spending weekends in Paris, and touring Ireland with a friend."
Read this loving mother's tribute to the life of her son, the willful boy who became a Man - and a leader of Men.