SAINT CHARLES, MO, USA U.S. Army SGT, 1138TH ENGR CO, 107TH ENGR BN, 35TH ENGR BDE, FORT LEONARD WOOD, MO BAGHDAD, IRAQ 01/31/2008
Donna Norman got to know Matthew Straughter while she manned a ball-field concession stand and the young soldier was staying at the armory waiting for deployment.
Norman and Straughter would chat during summer games. He called her “Mama Popcorn.” The two exchanged e-mails before he went overseas. She adopted him as an angel soldier.
“I received an e-mail from him,” she recalled. “He said, ‘I’m in Iraq now, I can’t tell you where. I really enjoy getting the things you send me. They make me laugh, sometimes it’s the only time during the day I do laugh. Thanks, Mama Popcorn.”‘
“He was proud of his children, his family was important to him. He would come to the stands and watch children playing ball. I knew he was thinking of his own children,” said Norman.
Specialist Matthew F. Straughter, 27, of Belleville, Illinois, died on January 31, 2008 in Baghdad after his vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq. He enlisted while living in St. Charles, Missouri, and was assigned to the 1138th Engineer Company, 107th Engineer Battalion, 35th Engineer Brigade, Missouri National Guard, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Several families with ties to the National Guard learned of Straughter’s death when they gathered at Mineral Area College in eastern Missouri for a support gathering for military families. They expected to have a video teleconference with their loved ones currently serving in Iraq, but a technical problem prevented it from taking place.
A military spokesperson said the news of Straughter’s death was delivered in person to the families there by a chaplain’s candidate. While it is never easy to relay news of a death, she said the military believed word was delivered in a comforting way. Straughter’s family was notified separately and not in attendance at the gathering.
Specialist Straughter joined the Missouri Army National Guard as a combat engineer in December 2005 and mobilized in July 2007.
His unit located improvised explosive devices and maintained traffic flow along military supply routes. Straughter also served on Operation Jump Start, the border security mission in Arizona from November 2006 to June 2007. During that assignment, he assisted in patrols and basic border protection.
He is survived by his wife, Renee, and five children.