The family of an Army paratrooper who was killed in action in Afghanistan last week has released a statement.
The Department of Defense said Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew I. Leggett died during combat in Kabul on Aug. 20. The 39-year-old was assigned to the headquarters battalion of the 18th Airborne Corps.
Leggett enlisted in the Army in May 1995 and had been based at Fort Bragg since 2012. He served three combat tours and was the recipient of numerous awards and decorations, including a Bronze Star Medal with one oak leaf cluster and a Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat.
His mother, Thea Marie Kurtz, is from Ruskin.
Here is the family's statement:
“LET'S GET IT ON” was Matthew's favorite saying when he was on motorcycle rides with his brother Ben or participating in online racing forums. Matthew (Matt) was born in Wabasha, Minnesota on October 13, 1974 to Thea Kurz, of Port Edwards, Wisconsin and Thomas Leggett of Nekoosa, Wisconsin. He has two brothers, Roderick and Benjamin, as well as two nieces and a nephew. He was raised with his brothers in Pepin, Wisconsin. He spent his early childhood and early teenage summers fishing and paddling around the Mississippi river on various watercrafts.
Once the family moved to Colorado, the peaks of the Rocky Mountains could not stop him from enjoying the outdoors. His fascination with the outdoors involved camping, fishing, hiking, running, snowboarding (almost competitively), and sitting in a perfect spot to ponder thoughts. Matt loved racing, either online or in person. He always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail from start to finish. Matt also wanted to ride his motorcycle from the Florida Keys to Alaska with those he was close to.
Matt attended Westminster Elementary School, Hodgkin's Middle School, and graduated from Westminster High School in May 1993. While in high school, he was enrolled in the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, and moved up the ranks quickly and was able to join the Army as an E-3. He joined the United States Army in 1995, and attended boot camp at Fort Knox, KY. Matt served at many duty stations to include locations in Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea, Germany, Kentucky, Hawaii, Virginia, Colorado, and North Carolina. Where ever he was stationed with the U.S. Army, Matt took advantage of the travel; he saw everyplace he could get to, on top of mountains, to valleys, and even along trails to take a picture of a lonely rock with a heart carved into it. Matt was the proudest when he became a Calvary Scout. He wore that Stetson Hat proudly! Prior to the start of any mission, he would blast the song “Don't fear the reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult.
Matt loved to cook using recipes from his mother and grandmother. He enjoyed many varieties of food but mostly he enjoyed Dr. Pepper, coffee, steaks, hamburgers, cheesecakes, and “NATO” shakes. He was able to cheer up a crowded room with a simple tilt of his head and a smile. He was always joking about something and making weird faces, but he always made people smile. If you were not smiling, you may have a prank pulled on you to make you smile.
Although Matt did not have any immediate family of his own, he loved his nieces and nephew like they were his own children. The three brothers were best friends. Matt loved and talked about his family frequently, as his best friends would know everything about his mother, brothers, nieces, and nephew before even meeting them. Matt knew how to comfort people in times of need.
Those who knew Matt will miss his generous heart and his ability to make anyone smile. Matt always cared for others, much more than he did for himself. He wore his heart proudly on his sleeve. He was an outstanding leader who cared for those above and below him. If there were any issues with his troopers, Matt would spend the time to correct them and ensure his troopers were taken care of.
The nation lost a man who could actually change the lives of others for the better. Matt was a soldier, son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, and a hero who loved his country and the world. He saw the good in humanity and what we as a human race are capable of. He cherished life! Words alone cannot describe what the nation has lost!
Matt completed two previous combat tours in Iraq and was on his third combat tour in Afghanistan. He was set to retire from the United States Army in the summer of 2015. A service will be held at Murphy Funeral Home in Arlington, VA on September 1 at 3:00 p.m., with his internment at Arlington National Cemetery at 11:00 a.m., on September 3, 2014. The XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C. will hold a unit memorial on September 5, 2014. The family will hold a “Celebration of Life” in Colorado at a future date. As Matthew would say “Meh…19D Sir” “All the Way” “Scouts out!”