Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mathew LaForest remembered

A 21-year-old graduate of Bowie High School in Austin was killed Friday in Taji, Iraq, the U.S. Department of Defense announced Monday.

Spc. Mathew LaForest died after being shot by enemy forces, the department said.

LaForest was assigned to 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, out of Fort Lewis, Wash.

LaForest was a quiet boy with brown hair and brown eyes, "the most perfect child you could have," said his father, Mark LaForest, a retired Air Force officer.

The LaForest family followed Mark LaForest to Air Force postings around the world and settled in Austin in time for Mathew to spend his eighth-grade year at Lake Travis Middle School.

Mathew LaForest was a member of Bowie's Junior ROTC program and played trumpet in the high school band. He also played soccer for the Austin United Soccer Club and went snowboarding on school breaks.

LaForest's family puts some of the blame for his death on Army recruiters, who told LaForest when he was 18 that he probably would not be sent to Iraq, his father said.

Mathew LaForest enlisted in the Army in August 2004, three months after he graduated from high school.

Although LaForest grew up on military bases, his decision to join the infantry in wartime came as a shock to his family. Mark LaForest believes the way the Army recruits had a lot to do with his son's decision.

"They start treating them like buddies, and four years later ... a certain percentage of these kids feel obligated to go into the military," he said.

Officials at Fort Hood and the Department of Defense did not immediately return calls seeking comment about recruiting methods.

LaForest planned to leave the Army when his term was up, his father said. He had begun saving for college.

In addition to his father, LaForest is survived by his mother, Deborah Boughn, stepmother Suzette LaForest, and siblings Jessica LaForest and Devon Mitchell.

His family is awaiting permission from the governor to bury him at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. It has asked that local recruiting officers not attend his funeral.

Read the rest at the Austin American Statesman

Related Link:
Mathew P. LaForest dies of 'injuries suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire during combat operations'