Monday, February 9, 2009
His Star Has Turned From Blue to Gold
Fallen pilot 'just wanted to fly'
OSBORN, Mo. — A U.S. Army helicopter pilot from Osborn, Mo., died Monday while serving with the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, in Iraq. Chief Warrant Officer Matthew G. Kelley, 30, flew Kiowa helicopters, the Army’s armed reconnaissance aircraft.
“He was born on a Monday and died on a Monday,” said Catherine Kelley, his mother.
Family members said Tuesday that Mr. Kelley was killed in action.
“He really just wanted to fly,” said his father, Col. Stephen Kelley, who is retired from the Army. He made the decision to fly Kiowa helicopters because he’d get more flying time, Mr. Kelley said. Matthew had wanted to fly since he was 9, his father said.
His all-time favorite movie was “Top Gun,” said Chris Kelley, Matthew’s older brother, an Army Reserve veteran who returned in June from Iraq and is a firefighter with the St. Joseph Fire Department.
Matthew Kelley enlisted in 2003, joining the 82nd Airborne Division as a paratrooper. He already had completed a tour in Iraq, earning an Army Commendation Medal. Mr. Kelley also got a chance to earn Australian Jump Wings while assigned to the 82nd.
He earned the Combat Infantry Badge and always wore it above his pilot wings. When other helicopter pilots would razz him about the badge, he’d just tell them they were jealous, his brother said with a laugh.
A “military brat” born in Germany, Matthew moved with the family from base to base until his father retired. They settled on a farm southeast of Osborn when Matthew was 11.
Mrs. Kelley, the soldier’s mother, is a teacher, and home-schooled her two sons.
He loved history, and both boys learned to memorize a lot of Scripture, Mrs. Kelley said. He read books about World War II with a voracious appetite, especially if they were about planes, his father said.
He married DaLana Wallace, from Cameron, Mo., in 2001, and they have two children. She was the only girl he ever dated, his brother said.
And their first kiss was when they got married, because he stood for what he believed in, Mrs. Kelley said.
The soldier’s wife and children, Megan, 6, and Tyler, 4, live in New York near Fort Drum, where his brigade was stationed.
Chris Kelley said his brother was a hero, but “he’d lost a best friend.”
The U.S. Defense Department hasn’t confirmed the death. American military officials did say four U.S. soldiers were killed Monday when two helicopters crashed in northern Iraq. Funeral arrangements are pending.
by Marshall White
Wednesday, January 28, 2009