EAGLE RIVER, AK, USA U.S. Army SGT, COMPANY A, 2D BATTALION, 69TH ARMOR, (2 MEF), FORT BENNING, GA AR RAMADI, IRAQ 09/05/2005
Pastor Bradley Rud’s best stories about Matthew C. Bohling sprang from a church youth group trip to a lake.
“One of my favorites was my warning him not to stand up in a canoe at Nancy Lake. He ended up upside down only moments later, but he’s a good swimmer, so he didn’t have any problems,” said
Bohling, 22, of Eagle River, Alaska, was killed Sept. 5 in Ramadi by a roadside bomb. He was assigned to Fort Benning and volunteered to go to Iraq for a first tour in 2003.
Bohling’s father, Charles, said his son, “loves the typical Alaska lifestyle and is happy with gun or rod in hand. Fun is at its best for him if a four-wheeler is involved.”
At a memorial service, Rud spoke of Bohling’s infectious spirit and his ability to brighten up even the darkest day.
“Impetuous, kind of fits, in fact – that’s something that got him into a little trouble on more than one occasion, but he also had a giant heart and an honest love for people and those are things that got him out of trouble on more than one occasion,” said Rud.
The pain never goes away, said Sandy Bohling, Matthew’s mother. It’s been nearly five years for her family. At the official Memorial Day ceremony, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich talked about the “horrific price” of war.
U.S. Rep. Don Young asked everyone to take a deep breath “and thank God you have a breath of freedom because of our veterans.”
Governor Sean Parnell said many there still “drink from the cup of grief.”
The familiar sentiments about sacrifice and the ultimate price don’t hit home until it’s your family, your son, lost to war, said Chuck Bohling, Matt’s father, and a retired soldier with 31 years in the Army and Army National Guard. Matt was a World War II buff and always wanted to be a soldier. He enlisted right after graduating from Chugiak High School. War wasn’t like he imagined, Chuck Bohling said.
“I think it was just dirty, none of the glory or the action that you would think would be in battle. A lot of it was just dreary, day-to-day drudgery, being away from family,” the father said.
Matt volunteered for his first combat tour in Iraq, and when he completed it, his mother’s worries eased a bit. He returned in 2005 with the A Company of the 2/69th Armored Regiment in the Third Infantry Division. He was part of a convoy delivering replacement soldiers to a guard station. They were almost back to their compound when the Humvee he was driving hit an improvised explosive device. An Iraqi soldier in the truck was also killed.
A contingent of family and friends came Monday to Matt’s grave. A friend knelt down and cried. Matt’s sister, Sarah Tudor, brought yellow roses and handed them to her children, born after Matt was killed. Matt’s niece and nephew placed them by his gravestone. His parents brought a wreath and his photo. He looks impossibly young.
Matt Bohling is an honored soldier too, with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
More than 800 people came to his funeral services in 2005 at Birchwood Community Church, now called The Crossing. That November, when President Bush flew through Anchorage, he met with Sandy and Chuck and they talked to him about Matt. They said Bush wiped away a tear when they told him it was their son’s birthday.