Monday, June 07, 2010

Army Spc. Matthew R. Catlett

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Matthew R. Catlett, 23, of Houston

Spc. Catlett was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died June 7, 2010 in Konar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Also killed in the attack were Sgt. Joshua A. Lukeala, Spc. Charles S. Jirtle and Spc. Blaine E. Redding.

Ryann Catlett is turning 5 on June 29. Last Saturday, she was already telling her dad what she wanted.

But dad, U.S. Army Spc. Matthew Ryan Catlett, will not be there.

The 23-year-old from Cypress was killed Monday in Afghanistan after a roadside bomb hit a Humvee carrying Catlett. Four other soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division also were killed.

“He was a wonderful person,” said his wife, Brytnee. “He cared about his kids and his family, and he loved being a dad and a soldier. That was most important: his daughters and his career.”

His Facebook profile picture showed him smiling with his arms around Ryann. His other daughter, Stephanie, is 3.

“Before he left, we sat down with the kids and we explained how daddy had to go over there and do his ‘soldier job,' as they call it,” Brytnee Catlett said.

She said she planned to tell the girls about their father Thursday night.

Catlett was born in Conroe but moved to Houston, where he graduated from Cypress Ridge High School in 2005 before enlisting in the Army. He was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and returned in November 2008. He left for Afghanistan in April.

“From the time he was 12, he talked about enlisting,” said his mother, Jerrie. “From the way he talked, he wanted to make it a career.”

The youngest of four, Catlett has three older sisters, with whom he visited before leaving. “He would sometimes come to work and surprise me,” Jerrie Catlett said, crying. “I'd look up and he'd be there.”

By Thursday morning, a Facebook group page called “RIP Matthew Ryan Catlett” boasted nearly 70 members and the wall to the page was spotted with condolences and photos of Catlett.

“Matthew was and always will be a great American hero in the eyes of more than just my family,” said Cindy Wheeler, whose husband served with Catlett in Iraq. “He was a great soldier and friend. He loved his family and his country. He will be greatly missed and never forgotten.”

Dedication to family
The creator of the Facebook group, Emily Griswold, said Catlett's dedication to his family stemmed from the fact that his father left when Catlett was 3 weeks old.

“His goal was to not do that and not be like that. His kids were the most important thing in his life,” said Griswold, Brytnee's sister.

“My mind won't calm down,” said Brytnee Catlett, pausing to fight tears. “There are a thousand things racing through my brain. It doesn't feel real. I still feel him here.”

Catlett is the fifth Houston-area soldier to die in Afghanistan this year. His body arrived Wednesday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. His wife said his body will be escorted within a few days to Houston. Plans for a memorial service have not yet been made.

“I'm going to try to tell the girls that he is with God and he is watching over them,” his wife said. “He died doing something brave for his country. He made a sacrifice for everyone.”

Spc. Matthew Catlett came home last Wednesday. His casket arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Catlett and four other troops with the 101st Airborne were killed in Afghanistan on Monday when their Humvee was hit. It was the bloodiest day for NATO troops there so far this year.

Army Spc. Matthew R. Catlett was killed in action on 6/7/10.

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