Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Randy Matheny remembered

The McCook soldier killed Sunday by a bomb in Baghdad is remembered at McCook Senior High for his perpetual smile and his mischievous laugh.

Specialist Randy J. Matheny, a 2004 MHS graduate, died Feb. 4 when an improvised explosive device detonated next to the armored security vehicle in which he served as a gunner. The Nebraska Army National Guard, which Matheny joined on March 28, 2005, has posthumously promoted Matheny to the rank of sergeant.

Matheny, 20, is the son of Gary Matheny and Jan Collins, both of McCook. His brother, Paul, and sister, Karen, both serve in the U.S. military.

Sharon Wordekemper, a teacher at MHS, was Randy Matheny's fifth/sixth grade teacher at McCook's Central Elementary and lived across the street north of his family when they lived at West First and J. "He was a neat kid," Wordekemper said. "He had such a laugh ... ornery, mischievous. He always came up to me and said, 'I've got a joke for you, and yeah, it's clean'."

Jerry Calvin, DARE officer at McCook Schools, said of Matheny's death, "It breaks my heart. He was a damned nice young man."

Calvin said Matheny graduated with his oldest daughter, Michelle.

"You just knew he was going to do something with his life ... he was going places," Calvin said. "His is an excellent family ... a good, good family ... good people, through and through."

Calvin said Matheny's death brings the reality of the Iraqi war home to McCook. "The young men and women fighting there understand it, but it's so far away ... " he said, it's often forgotten, misunderstood or dismissed by those not serving or by those without family members who are serving. "This brings the war home, on a very personal basis."

Matheny's woods and industrial arts teacher, Chad Lyons, said that Matheny was "a quiet leader in the classroom. He was a good person ... respected by everyone ... by his fellow students."

Sharon Bohling, the librarian at MHS, said that Matheny was a "friendly person ... he always had a smile on his face. It's so sad."

Junior High Principal Dennis Berry remembers Matheny as "a good kid ... he always had a big grin on his face."

MHS Principal Jerry Smith said he remembers a "good kid," a strawberry-blond "who wore sunglasses ALL the time."

"He was easy to talk to ... a nice kid who didn't attract a lot of attention to himself," Smith said.

Smith said teachers planned to visit with MHS students about Matheny's death and his service to his country in seminar classes, although today's seniors were just freshmen when Matheny graduated in 2004 and maybe were not well acquainted with him. "Even though the kids may not have known him well, his service makes them realize that there are people getting hurt and killed in Iraq," Smith said. "There's more to what's going on over there than just what they see on the news. This brings it all home."

Funeral services for Matheny have not been released.

Two other National Guard soldiers were injured in the same bombing that killed Matheny. Their names and conditions have not been released.

"The entire Nebraska Army National Guard family grieves over the loss of Sgt. Matheny," said Adjutant General Roger Lempke.

Matheny joined the Guard on March 28, 2005, as a heavy vehicle driver in Detachment 1, 1057th Transportation Co. in Scottsbluff. He attended basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., in 2005, and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in 2006.

He transferred to the Sidney-based 1074th Transportation Co. in June 2006 as a heavy vehicle driver, and was mobilized for duty in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom on July 15, 2006.

The 1074th Transport-ation Co. is stationed in Iraq where the unit is responsible for providing security for transportation missions throughout Iraq.

Read the rest at the Gazette

Related Link:
Randy Matheny dies of injuries from I.E.D.