CAMP DWYER, Helmand province, Afghanistan --
Silence settled over Patrol Base Lambert after Cpl. Matthew T. Richard’s memorial service. A steady current of hot desert air coursed its way through the Helmand combat position where Richard’s squad huddled together, finding comfort in each other’s presence.
Comfort was an arm draped over a shoulder: two Marines standing side by side, their pained, bleary-eyed smiles reflecting an internal collision of courage and despair.
More than anything, the Golf Company squad seemed to remember the fallen team leader of Iota, La., for his unbridled, comical personality and contagious enthusiasm, which were manifest even in his flaws.
“He was an amazing Marine but could get on your nerves sometimes, ‘cause he was quick to add what he thought of the conversation or situation,” said Sgt. Jonathan Moulder, Richard’s squad leader. “That’s who he was though, and I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.”
In fact, Richard excelled in the Marine Corps. He impressed Moulder as an extraordinarily driven individual who strove to “be the best at anything he was doing or put his mind to.” The effusively energetic team leader was combat meritoriously promoted to his present rank in March, one month before his 21st birthday.
Moulder also observed Richard’s sense of responsibility for his junior Marines.
“I would say that he lead them to the best of his abilities,” Moulder said. “He loved his junior Marines in almost every way possible. He took care of them and wanted to ensure that they didn’t get hurt in any way.”
Off duty, Richard was always looking for fun, said Lance Cpl. Gary Walsh, an infantryman in Golf Company and a close friend of Richard. Richard enjoyed fishing, drinking beer, and the nightlife of Myrtle Beach on a long weekend. He loved Outback Steakhouse, but fried pickles from Hooters were his favorite. At the barracks, he was commonly sighted with a smile on his face and a beer in hand.
During the memorial and afterward, the Marines who knew Richard held nothing back. Humor and heroism blended in stories of youthful optimism as uncompromising as Richard’s personality.
“He was quick to jump in to any situation even if he had no clue what was going on,” Walsh said. “He was an outspoken individual. You knew he was there and would add his two cents to anything.”
Moulder describes a bold, outgoing, endearingly vain Marine.
“He was a gym rat like myself, but I would always catch him in the smallest mirror possible just flexing away right after a workout,” Moulder said.
The combination of his virtues and petty vices were his essence: the memory that Golf Company cherishes.
“My lasting impression of Matt was that he was the best friend a guy could have,” Walsh said. “He will never be forgotten by anyone who had the privilege of spending any time with him. From his big goofy smile to his antics, he was one of a kind who will never be replaced.”
Richard made the ultimate sacrifice, June 9, while supporting combat operations in Northern Marjah, Helmand province, as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Richard’s personal awards include the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.
Richard is survived by his parents, Jeff and Alicia, and his siblings, Joshua and Laura.