11/13/2013, WASHINGTON STATE
Dear Mr. Reagan
I came across your program thru a friend of mine as I am having the hardest time letting my son go. You see my son is not a fallen hero. But he is a hero to many and my son, Sgt. Matthew T. Cunningham spent over l2 years in the US Army. He was truly a wonderful man.
Back when Matty was nearing high school graduation I had been going through a difficult divorce and to make things easier for me he decided since he always spoke highly of the military and becoming a doctor of some sort someday, he chose to enlist in the Army. He told me one day; I think this will elevate many financial burdens to you mom and I really want to do this.
So within several he was off to boot camp to Fort Leonardwood. He loved it no matter how hard it seemed to others and enjoyed helping others when they needed. He graduated and wrote letters to inform me that he was doing very well and of all his ventures. I was so proud of the man he was becoming. He even wrote all the words to a song for me, called Mama. Its from the group Boyz to Men. While in the military prior to going to war he had married a young woman who completely played games with his head but when he went to war he spent two terms in Iraq. He had several black outs and called me to tell me he was having awful nightmares and didn’t know what they were. Then one day he called me from Kuwait. He told me that they found out they were not nightmares they were seizures. The had found a very large brain tumor on the right side of his head and they were immediately sending him back to the states for emergency surgery. The seizures were many. Of course now the military, with my direction are finding that possibly the tumor was caused by the area he was stationed in in Kuwait. From the DU shells and radioactive materials.
My son had his first surgery in 11/2004. They could only remove about 90 percent because they had removed a lot of brain matter. But prior to this surgery I had boarded a plane and arrived after his surgery to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington DC. I remember looking at my son and feeling so horrible. I thought for such a young man who loved the military, and his country to be so ill. I felt cheated for him and me. I remember he opened his eyes and said, “mom, i want to meet my boss.” Then he passed out. I looked at his wife at the time and she said, He wants to meet the President of the US. I told her, “well I’m going to try to make it happen”. She told me your crazy you can’t walk into the white house and tell him to come meet your son especially in this time of war. I ignored her comment and went off to do what a mother must do. I spoke with several officials there at the hospital and was directed to the Generals office there at Walter Reed. I went there and spoke to a Major and then to General Farmer. I tell you this was on thursday evening and by monday night they had the whole hospital in lock down. They had SWAT teams everywhere, police dogs, metal detectors, bomb squads, the whole works but no one would say anything.
So early around 7am, I had been with my son and his wife in his room discussing all the craziness outside and my son had told me, “I hope you didn’t do anything silly mom, because Kris told me that you were trying to get the President to come over; and he’s very busy with the war”. I just shucked my shoulders and said. Ok. Within l5 minutes or so there was a knock on the door. I opened the door and remembering all I saw was the Presidential Pin on this sharply dressed man. He asked for my son. Although my son was not feeling well he immediately hopped out of bed and saluted the man. The secret service man said he represented the President of the US and that he would have a visit from his boss at approx. 1:09pm that day. My son got his wish he met President Bush and the First Lady at 1:09pm as instructed and along with a lovely conversation from them both he received a presidential coin. It was the most emotional day and memorable event of our lives.
Shortly after Matthew transferred to Fort Lewis, Washington he was diagnosed with the almost full growth of another tumor this time it was malignant. He wife did not want to deal with this so she moved out and they divorced. He was alone. He was told that prolonging it was his only choice; my son was told he had maybe a couple of years to four. Well out of the l2 years my son had in the army 9 years were with the tumor.
He called me about 9 months ago and asked if I could move to Washington and stay with him as he needed more help. It took me a couple of months as I was care taking and 88 year old Decorated 40 year Navy vet who had a stroke and was bound to a wheel chair permanently .
My was a true brave soldier and hero. I look at his pictures every day as i have them scattered all over his house here in Washington. Two weeks prior to my sons death he woke up and said, “mom can you make me some of those pancakes you make and hopped in the shower. While he was in the shower he had a grand mal seizure and it locked down his left side and he was blind in one eye. It was a horrible thing to see, but he survived two weeks. My son passed away on Nov 21, 2013.
It is the hardest thing for a mother to lose a child let alone her only son.
You see Matty was not only my son, he seemed to always worry about me and his two sisters. Worried if we needed anything, worried how they were doing in school, worried about his grandparents. He was our life force. He was a great example to all of us in how people should really be. I still to this day get over a hundred emails almost daily from all his friends, comrades, instructors from the university. Two years ago things got worse health wise and my son was accepted at the University of Saint Martins in Lacey, WA. Everyone and a few of the monks that taught there spoke very highly of him. He was two classes short of graduating with his Bachelors that they gave him his diploma prior to his death. He wanted to become a Psychologist for the children in the military. He gave so much of himself to so many, and was always involved with Coats for Kids, the homeless and much more.
I realize that you do these portraits for Fallen Heros and I commend you highly for this beautiful thing you do with such wonderful talent. But the truth of it is that I cannot sleep, and because of all this I’m seeing a shrink now. Its so hard letting him go and I know he’s still in the house as sometimes lights go off and on and sometimes his dog Ziggy runs to the office and stares at his picture. If at all and you can find time to do a portrait of my son, it would mean the world to me and his two sisters. If you cannot I will totality understand. And thank you so very much for supporting our troops even on their voyages to heaven.
I thank you with all my heart for reading my letter. Teri Cunningham