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Friday, November 18, 2011

Random Writers Guest Post - A Hero

(Cross-posted at Random Writers)

When my friends Gil and Lee were soliciting guest bloggers for the Random Writers project, I looked at the list and immediately knew that I wanted to write about someone that's a hero to me, especially this week that contains both Veteran's Day and the Marine Corps birthday. Regular readers of my blog have seen me write about this person before, but I just can't do it enough.

I'm pretty sure I met Matt Freeman on July 1st, 1998. I say pretty sure because that was our Induction Day at the US Naval Academy, and I remember very little of that day. But Matt and I were both in India Company, 17th Platoon, and we all had to meet and learn some things about each other in those first couple of days. For the next four years, we all lived on the same floor, trained together, had ups and downs together, and saw each other at our best and at our worst. Through it all, Matt was always there for everyone. He never got involved in any of the personality conflicts or other drama.

After graduation, I went off to Surface Warfare Officer School as a Navy Ensign, and Matt went off to The Basic School as a Marine Corps 2nd Lieutenant.  We were MySpace friends, and later Facebook friends, and saw each other at our five year reunion, but never kept in super good touch.  However, that did not make the blow that I felt when I heard about his death in August 2009 any less severe.

Matt was stationed in Japan, and had volunteered to go over to Afghanistan on an Individual Augmentation to support a Marine unit that was short on people. Just before he left, he quietly married his high school sweetheart.  A week after his arrival, Matt called his mother, who was a lifelong teacher, to tell her about what he was seeing with the children in Afghanistan. He told her that the children wanted to learn, and wanted pens and paper and school supplies almost more than food and water.  He asked her to ask around at their church and collect some school supplies for the children.

Two days later, Matt was killed in action. Below is his Bronze Star Citation, because there's no way I could do this description justice:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the BRONZE STAR MEDAL posthumously to CAPTAIN MATTHEW C. FREEMAN, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS for service as set forth in the following


For heroic service in connection with combat operations against the enemy as a Fire Support Team Leader and Company Advisor for the 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 201st Corps, Afghan National Army. Captain Freeman’s keen judgment and decisive leadership were ever present in all phases of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. On 7 August 2009, Captain Freeman engaged in the combined and joint Operation BREST THUNDER in one of the most dangerous areas within the 201st Corps’ Area of Operations, the Shpee Valley of Kapisa Province. The strength of the enemy in the Shpee Valley was estimated to consist of more than eighty insurgents with reports that a large number of reinforcements had recently moved into the area. Acting to conduct a reconnaissance of force in the valley, Captain Freeman’s element received enemy fire almost immediately upon leaving the combat outpost. Pinned down as the result of this fire, Captain Freeman decided to clear a kulat in order to gain access to the top deck and achieve better observation of the enemy’s firing position. Receiving a heavy volume of enemy fire, Captain Freeman led the way in clearing the house and was the first to reach the rooftop. Once on the rooftop, he spotted an enemy Rocket-Propelled Grenade gunman and immediately killed him. He and one of this team members spotted several other insurgents and began to engage while under fire. It was at this time that Captain Freeman fell mortally wounded. He fought with bravery and determination while demonstrating unwavering courage in the face of the enemy. Captain Freeman’s performance of duty in a combat zone reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Matt's family and friends are doing everything possible to make sure that nobody forgets Matt and that his last wish is fulfilled. Matt's mother took his request for school supplies and ran with it, and established the Matthew Freeman Project: Pens and Paper for Peace in 2010.  The Freeman Project has sent over 12,000 pounds of school supplies to not only Afghanistan but also Iraq and other war-torn nations.

People want to list celebrities and sports stars and famous political figures as their heroes, and I guess that's OK, because everyone defines the word hero differently. On August 7th, 2009, we lost someone that I believe epitomized the definition of a true hero.  Please consider visiting the Freeman Project website, watch the videos, read about Matt, and if you can, make a donation.

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