Thursday, August 23, 2007

Matthew L. Tallman dies 'of injuries suffered when his helicopter crashed'

The Norton Shores mother-in-law of a U.S. soldier killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in Iraq Wednesday wants people to know Matthew Tallman "wasn't just a number."

"I just want him to count," Norton Shores resident Vicki Whiting said of Tallman. He was the husband of Whiting's daughter Nicci, a 1998 graduate of Mona Shores High School.

Tallman, 30, was one of 14 soldiers aboard the UH-60 helicopter that went down in northern Iraq. The military said it appeared the aircraft was lost due to mechanical problems and not from hostile fire.

Whiting stressed that the 14 soldiers were individuals whose deaths devastated their friends and families.

In addition to his 27-year-old wife, Tallman leaves behind the couple's 1-year-old son, Ryley, and 6-year-old daughter, Sandie.

"There was a whole little family destroyed," Whiting said. "He wasn't just a number. I want people to know Matthew Tallman existed."

At the time of the accident, Tallman -- who was based at Fort Lewis in Washington state -- had served just two months in Iraq. Prior to that, he had served a year in Afghanistan, Whiting said.

"He was a good father, good husband and good human being," she said. "He was delighted to have his little princess (Sandie) and his little 'bubba boy."'

Tallman was a crew chief for the Black Hawk unit and "loved his job, loved being in the air," Whiting said.

The identities of the soldiers had not been released by the military Wednesday. The helicopter's two pilots and two flight crew members were based at Fort Lewis, base spokesman David Kuhns said.

Tallman, a California native, was set to serve 15 months in Iraq, rather than a full 18 months as first thought, Whiting said. He had considered serving with the U.S. Coast Guard next, she said.

He had met Nicci in 2000 while both were in Army training in Virginia, and they were married the same year, Whiting said. Nicci is no longer in the Army.

Whiting said she and her husband, Carter Whiting, of 2122 Maryland, feel as if they've lost a son. Tallman was an only child and his father preceded him in death.

"He adopted my husband as a father, and my parents as grandparents," Whiting said.

She said although her family hadn't known Tallman long before the couple married, he was accepted into the family "right from the get-go."

"He was fantastic. He was hysterical. He just fit in our family," Whiting said.

Meanwhile, Whiting said her family plans to fly out to visit their daughter "in the next few days." Nicci currently is staying at the military base while funeral arrangements are pending.

"She has a good support system there," Whiting said.

Tallman also is survived by his sister-in-law Jennifer Whiting, of Norton Shores; brother-in-law Bill Whiting, of Norton Shores; his mother Virginia Tallman, of California; and Nicci's grandparents Roger and Blanche Dykehouse of Fruitport Township.

From the Muskegon Chronicle