JACKSON, MI, USA
SGT, 1461ST TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, WYOMING, MI
BAYJI, IRAQ 06/06/2007
Army Private First Class Matthew Soper, or “Big Slick” was full of fun and often surprises. He loved what he was doing and had the backs of his battle buddies. As a National Guardsman he represented his home state of Michigan. In 2005, Soper’s family was celebrating his return from the war. He returned home in February 2005 after nearly a year fighting with the 1462nd Transportation Company of Howell, Michigan. As part of his 2005 homecoming celebration, PFC Soper took down the yellow ribbon around an elm tree in his parents’ yard. It was his way of declaring a returning victory.
After his return, he spent some time in Kalamazoo, taking classes at Kalamazoo Valley Community College until he was called to duty last year. He was among 299 soldiers mobilized in Jackson last June for deployment with the 1461st Transportation Company. It is a truck-driving unit that transports tanks in huge vehicles the Army calls HETs, for heavy equipment transport. The unit was expected to return home in August 2007. PFC Soper , age 25, of Kalamazoo, Mich., died June 6, 2007 in Bayji, Iraq, of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device.
Matthew Soper was the fifth of Warner and Shirley Soper’s eight children. He would walk into a room and light up the room and everyone in it. Family recall him doing a dancing entry to “Hillbilly Deluxe,” a country song by Brooks & Dunn. He had a flair for the dramatic as demonstrated by his surprise visit home in March 2007 to celebrate his grandmother’s 80th birthday. The surprise grand entrance was his style. He was a natural and outstanding athlete. He loved playing with little kids and provided great joy to observers when ,as a big high school kid, he played genuinely with the little ones.
This twenty-five year old soldier wrote in many of his emails to family in Jackson, “If I die there, don’t think I didn’t die doing what I love.” Nearly 500 soldiers attended Soper’s memorial service in Iraq. Everyone knew he was a hero. He was known for always looking out for everyone else. His battle buddy, roommate and gun partner, Derek Eisele, was also a middle school classmate. They both joined the National Guard together and were also stationed together for much of their deployed service. These close bonds tell of the extended family that was part of Matthew Soper’s life.