Thursday, August 16, 2007

Matthew Murchison honored by comrades

Spc. Matthew Murchison always went out of his way to help people see the lighter side of life.

His death is serving as a reminder of the cost of war.

Murchison, a member of the 127th Military Police Company, was killed by a makeshift bomb that tore through his vehicle Aug. 4 in Baghdad. He was the third from his company, but the first 127th soldier from this community, to die in Iraq since the unit deployed there in November.

“This particular soldier holds a special place in my heart,” Sgt. Kenneth Gibson, a fellow member of the 127th, read on behalf of Sgt. Richard Havens, who couldn’t attend a memorial ceremony Tuesday. Murchison was Havens’ gunner, “and was killed defending his fellow soldiers.”

The 21-year-old Murchison — who died a hero in the eyes of his unit — had come a long way since he arrived more than 18 months ago.

“He was a little unsure of himself at first,” said Havens, who met him in January 2006, “but it didn’t take him long to make friends.”

Havens took Murchison under his wing and tried to teach him everything he knew about soldiering. At the same time, Havens learned just as much about being a better friend and a better leader from Murchison, he wrote.

Murchison also showed him there are still people out there willing to give their life to save others.

“My son will always know him as ‘Uncle Murch,’ and my wife will always know him as one of the guys,” Havens wrote.

Gibson, himself wounded by a roadside bomb in January, shared his own memories of Murchison, his former platoon mate, after the ceremony.

“Murchison, man, he could take the most stressful situation and turn it into a comedy,” Gibson said

Gibson compared the young soldier’s sense of humor to that of Larry the Cable Guy, a comedian and self-professed redneck. There are a few stories, Gibson said smiling, “but I don’t think you want to print them.”

They weren’t dirty, though, he added.

The deployment hasn’t been easy on the soldiers of the 127th, nor has it been painless for the unit’s families.

Asked what the deployment was like, Gibson said, “It’s Iraq.”

He pulled back the lapel on his dress uniform and pointed to a purple ribbon, which signifies the Purple Heart, one of two awards Murchison received posthumously. “I got one of these, too.”

“There ain’t nothing safe about war,” Gibson said. “Everybody knows what the costs are when they go.”

For families, the deployment was going pretty smoothly until a Jan. 20 attack in Karbala, said Amy Diaz, wife of 1st Lt. Nathan Diaz, who leads the company’s 3rd Platoon.

In that attack, enemy fighters impersonating Americans drove unimpeded into a compound, killed one U.S. soldier, wounded a number of others and abducted four more who were later found riddled with bullets. Her husband thinks the attackers had help from Iraqis inside the compound with the Americans.

The wives help each other cope with the uncertainty, Amy Diaz said.

After the memorial ceremony, one of the wives suggested they go out for coffee. Another joked they should probably get some doughnuts to go with it.

“You know, because they’re cops,” Diaz said, speaking of the 127th and of the old police stereotype.

“You’ve got to keep your sense of humor,” she said, smiling.

From Stars and Stripes

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Matthew M. Murchison dies 'of wounds suffered when the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device'