FORWARD OPERATING BASE RAMROD, Afghanistan — Underneath the shade of camouflage netting, Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, mourned the loss of a fallen Soldier during a memorial service Aug. 30 at Combat Outpost Terminator.
Pfc. Matthew E. Wildes, 18, of Hammond, La., died Aug. 27 when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Wildes joined the Army in 2008 and deployed to Afghanistan on May 24, 2009.
"On behalf of everyone in Task Force 1-12, Task Force Kandahar and the Mountain Warrior Brigade Combat Team, I would like to offer my deepest regrets and sorrow for his loss," said Lt. Col. Reik Andersen, 1-12 IN commander. "Thank you for allowing your son to serve with us in the pursuit of our national goals of peace and stability for this part of the world."
Soldiers from the 1-12 IN Battalion Bravo Company, 3rd Platoon, remembered Wildes for his character, his friendship and his "no quit" attitude.
"Matt was a man of great character," said 1st Lt. Christopher Preece, 1-12 IN B-Co. "He was a friend and a Soldier, who would do anything that was asked of him no matter how trivial or difficult."
Wildes' commander, Cpt. Michael Erlandson, choked back tears as he recalled the life of this fallen Hero.
"We are all better off for having known this Soldier, and just the same, we are all of little less whole as he is no longer with us," he said. "You will be missed, and you will be mourned, but you will never be forgotten. To Matthew's parents, I cannot bring your son back to you, but I can assure you one thing; the men of B-CO are going to spend the rest of their days here in Afghanistan honouring Matthew's memory through our actions on the battlefield."
For Staff Sgt. Michael Nares and other Soldiers from B-CO 3rd Platoon, they will remember Wildes for his humor and care free attitude.
"Wildes always tried to make everyone laugh with his corny raps and his famous 'Blue Steel' look he had mastered," said Nares. "You were a great Soldier, but an even better friend; not only to me, but to everyone in 3rd Platoon."
The service ended with a 21-gun salute and taps. Digital pictures of Wildes flashed on a screen before the memorial and as music played, hundreds of mourners moved in a long line in front of a set of symbolic remains to pay their last respects.
"Today, I say 'thank you' to the family of Wildes," said Cpt. Timothy Brown, chaplain. "He gave his life for our nation. He gave his life for his friends. No greater commitment and no greater love can be displayed but that a man lay down his life so that we can enjoy the freedoms with which God has blessed us. Today, I salute a hero. Today, we honor Pfc.Wildes."