A Shadle Park High School graduate who joined the Army shortly after completing school in 2005 was killed Monday in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Matthew H. Stiltz, 26, was about six months into a tour of duty in Afghanistan after serving two tours in Iraq, said a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan. He died of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with artillery fire in Zerok, a town in eastern Afghanistan about 12 miles from the border with Pakistan.
His sister, 25-year-old Kristin Stiltz, said Tuesday, “I think he definitely found himself in the service. … He loved being a soldier – loved it. I think he probably would have been in until he was old and gray.”
His brother and sister described him as smart, funny and stubborn.
“He was wonderful,” she said. “He was a good brother and a good friend. Everyone is going to miss him.”
Erin Ruehl, a teacher at Shadle and Stiltz’s adviser for student marketing association DECA, recalled Stiltz as a nice young man who was “very respectful of the traditions of our country and very patriotic.” She said he talked about serving in the military while in school.
Stiltz was active in DECA and a leader in the student-run enterprise the Highlander Hut, a store that sells snacks, supplies and school-spirit apparel. He was very “tech savvy” and as a senior was a member of a two-person team that competed at the International Career Development Conference in Anaheim, Calif.
Although the Shadle team didn’t win, being one of 60 selected from around the country was a major accomplishment, Ruehl said.
Stiltz’s brother and sister said he came from a family with other members in the service, and that he left for basic training just weeks after graduating from Shadle in June 2005. Newspaper files show he finished his early Army training by the end of that year. He arrived at Fort Riley in February 2006 and has been stationed there ever since, except for his deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
An infantryman, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.
“It comforts me to know he was in the company of some really good men,” Stiltz’s sister said. “Even though he couldn’t have been with his family here, he had his family in the Army. They called him brave. They said he was a true hero. They said they were honored to serve with him.
“Knowing my brother, that doesn’t surprise me.”
Stiltz was promoted posthumously to staff sergeant and is expected to receive the Purple Heart, a Fort Riley spokesman said.
“It’s hard to believe,” Kristin Stiltz said of her brother’s death. “Even though you know it’s a dangerous situation and it’s a possibility when someone goes to war, you just never think it’s going to happen to you.”
His wife, Brooke Stiltz, and parents, Mark and Terri Stiltz, were at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to await the return of his body. Services are pending.
“He died doing what he loved,” said his brother, 30-year-old Jeff Stiltz, himself an Air Force veteran. “That’s the only wish you can have.”