Tributes & Vigils Category: US Marine
Marine Lance Cpl. John J. Mattek Jr.
24, of Stevens Point, Wis.; assigned to the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died June 13 of wounds sustained in an explosion June 8 while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Anbar province, Iraq.
Wisconsin Marine dies of Iraq injuries
ANTIGO, Wis. â€” A Marine who was the president of his class three out of four years in high school in Antigo died Monday from wounds he received in Iraq last week, the Department of Defense said.
Lance Cpl. John J. Mattek Jr., 24, suffered the injuries in a June 8 explosion as part of combat operations against enemy forces in Anbar province, the Pentagon said.
Mattek is the 39th Wisconsin service member to be killed in Iraq.
â€œHe was a great kid,â€ Tom Weix, Mattekâ€™s wrestling coach when he was a high school senior, recalled Monday. â€œItâ€™s pretty sad. He was a go-getter, definitely a leader.â€
Jill Mattek of Deerbrook, north of Antigo, said her brother graduated from Antigo High School and then attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
She said their parents had traveled to Maryland, where Mattek had been flown for treatment. He died in the hospital there early Monday.
Mattek was assigned to the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team-2, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., the Defense Department said.
As of Monday, at least 1,701 members of the U.S. military have died since the start of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to the Defense Department.
Antigo High Principal Thomas Zamzow said Mattek played football and wrestled at the school, graduating in 1999. Zamzow coached Mattek when he was eighth-grade quarterback.
â€œI could tell even then he definitely was a leader and a motivator of the team. He was willing to step up and set a good example,â€ Zamzow said.
According to Zamzow, Mattek was president of his class when he was a freshman, sophomore and senior. He was a captain of the football team when he was a senior linebacker and was among those in his class voted most likely to succeed.
â€œHe was one of those kids who you appreciated because he was willing to take on responsibility and be a leader,â€ the principal said.
Weix said Mattek wrestled in one of the heavier weight classes, 160 to 171 pounds, as a senior and made it to the sectionals but didnâ€™t qualify for the state tournament.
â€œHe was one of our strongest kids,â€ the coach recalled. â€œHe was very competitive. He was a very hard worker. He loved the weight room.â€
Mattekâ€™s younger brother and a cousin now wrestle for the team, Weix said.
After high school, Mattek went to UW-Stevens Point and took just some general classes, Weix said. He made the Pointers football team and played on its special teams, Weix said.
Weix said he saw Mattek last Christmas but they never talked about why Mattek joined the Marines or about his future goals.
â€œHe was a unique individual. He just lived life to the fullest,â€ Weix said. â€œHe would make a good Marine. If you gave him a job, he would complete it.â€
Hundreds attend service for Marine killed in Iraq
ANTIGO, Wis. â€” About 1,000 mourners packed a church Monday for the funeral of a 24-year-old Marine who, in a letter just three months ago, told his family that â€œevery man dies, not every man really lives. I have lived.â€
The letter was read as part of the tribute to Lance Cpl. John J. Mattek Jr., who died June 13 at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland from injuries suffered in a June 8 explosion in Iraqâ€™s Anbar province. Mattek was the 39th Marine or soldier from Wisconsin to die since fighting began in Iraq more than two years ago.
â€œJohn was proud. He was proud of all he was,â€ the Rev. Jeremiah Worman told mourners at St. John Catholic Church, describing the Marine as a farmerâ€™s son, a guy best known as â€œJohnnyâ€ and a military man â€œdoing his best, being proud of his community, country and God.â€
Mattek, who graduated from Antigo High School in 1999, enlisted in the Marines in April 2003 and was deployed to Iraq in March. He was assigned to the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team-2, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., according to the Defense Department.
Before he left for Iraq, Mattek gave his family a letter to open only in case of his death. His brother, Matt Mattek, read the letter in which the Marine promised to â€œfear no man, no enemyâ€ and vowed to forgo heaven â€œif hell is where the fight is … They shall not mourn my death, but celebrate my life. Because every man dies, but not every many really lives. I have lived.â€
His sister, Jill Mattek, read a separate letter in which he recalled going downhill skiing when he was 4. Mattek said that experience introduced him to what he called â€œthe free spirited feeling.â€
â€œWhen I felt that feeling, it never left,â€ he wrote. â€œAnd doing things such as this keeps me free and nothing stops me.â€
In closing, Mattek told his sister, â€œWe all see the same thing. We just look at it differently. Live hard, drive fast, take chances.â€ He signed the letter, Johnny.
In his homily, Worman recalled that when Mattek was his high schoolâ€™s senior class president, he offered the welcoming remarks for the graduation ceremonies and asked his classmates for a moment of silence to honor those who might not be present for the classâ€™ 10-year reunion in 2009.
â€œToday, let us give him that moment of silence,â€ Worman said.
â€” Associated Press