Monday, January 22, 2007

Andy Matus reported killed in Iraq

A young Marine is killed in Iraq, and now a small community in Western Wisconsin is mourning.

19-year-old Andy Matus of Weyerhaeuser enlisted in the Marines after graduating from high school in 2005.

The Department of Defense has not released any information about Matus' death.

But this marks the third time in less than a year that people in Rusk County are dealing with the death of a young member of the military in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"He wanted to be in the infantry," said Weyerhaeuser School Principal Todd Solberg. "He set his sights on that, and he did it in exemplary fashion."

Before enlisting in the Marines, Matus spent 13 years learning here.

Teachers say he was creative and good with his hands good, that he was named "Technology Education Student of the Year" in 2005.

"He's probably the best mechanic I ever saw," said Richard Manor, a technology education teacher at Weyerhaeuser. "If you needed a part, he'd make the parts. He was very talented."

And he used those talents to help others.

Matus designed and built furniture and games to raise money for community programs.

"If anybody ever asked him to do anything, he'd be more than happy to help out," Solberg said.

And his teachers say he gave 100 percent in everything he did.

"Very polite, very smart, just a really bright kid," said Ron Weber, a science teacher at Weyerhaeuser School. "He's everything good you'd hope to turn out of a school, that's what he was."

Matus played football for a year and spent a lot of time in the weight room.

A plaque on this memorial wall in the school lobby will honor and remember the young man teachers here call a quiet leader.

And those who knew and taught Andy Matus for years in the small town of just over 300 people say it's going to take a while for the news of his death to sink in.

"It's so sad. It's such a loss, such a loss of talent. Obviously I'm still dealing with it because it's sad," Weber said.

Matus received a stripe after finishing boot camp - something many consider an honor.

He comes from a close-knit family, and his mother says Matus always wanted to be a Marine.

She says her son followed his dream... making his family very proud.

Funeral arrangements for Matus are pending.

From WEAU 13