Our son, Matthew Wildes was a special young man and soldier. He wanted to serve his country in the Army at the earliest possibility and entered at age 16 into the delayed entry program. It was not possible for him to join until he turned 17 years old without our parental permission. Matt wanted to join so badly that we signed the necessary papers. Matt wanted to be an infantryman even though we tried to persuade him to choose a different MOS. He knew from the beginning that he wanted 11B. In April of 2008, he left Hammond for Ft. Benning, Georgia. In BCT Matt got stress fractures in his legs and was sent home for a month and then returned to Ft. Benning for rehabilitation. Since this occurred halfway through BCT, the entire month that he was home, Matt was anxious to return even though he was disappointed that he would not be graduating with original friends. After graduation on September 26, 2008, Matt came home for a week before leaving for his first duty station at Ft. Carson, Colorado.
Matt left for Afghanistan on May 26, 2009 and we felt so fortunate that Matt was sent home for R & R on August 4, 2009. He, however, was really upset that he had to come home for R& R only two months after arriving in Afghanistan. We were able to spend two special weeks with Matt before he was killed. As soon as Matt returned to Kandahar Air Force Base, his Captain told us that Matt wanted to return to his outpost so badly that instead of waiting his turn, he jumped ahead of two other soldiers. Matt had only been back at his outpost for 12 hours before he was sent on a volunteer mission. It was on this mission that he was killed by an improvised explosive device on August 27, 2009, just one week after leaving home. Matt was the youngest soldier killed since President Obama entered office, but be died doing what he loved, serving his country.
On August 30, under the shade of camouflage netting, soldiers from the 1stBattalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, mourned Matt's loss. At this memorial service, soldiers from Matt's 1-12 IN Battalion Bravo Company, 3rd Platoon expressed fond memories of Matt recalling his character, friendship and "no quit" attitude. During the special service held for Matt in Afghanistan, his commander, Captain Michael Erlandson choked back tears as he recalled Matt's life. Matt's Staff Sargeant, Michael Nares, remembered Matt for his humor and care free attitude. Nares said, " Wildes always made everyone laugh with his raps and famous "Blue Steel" look that he had mastered. You were a great Soldier, but an even better friend; not only to me but to all of 3rd Platoon". Matt's chaplain, Captain Timothy Brown said, Matt gave his life for his country and friends. No greater commitment and no greater love can be displayed but that a man lay down his life so that we can enjoy freedoms with which God has blessed us."
Upon Matt's journey home to Hammond there was an outpouring of love from friends and relatives paying their final respects. The Patriot Guard Riders, a welcome sight, honored Matt's memory at both the funeral horne and cemetery. A billboard across the street from the funeral home was prominent with the words: In Memory of a Hero, PFC Matthew E. Wildes, December 8, 1990 to August 27, 2009.