Monday’s melancholy weather matched the mood at a private air hangar at Spokane International Airport as family and local military welcomed home the body of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew H. Stiltz.
The 26-year-old infantryman died last week from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with artillery fire in Zerok, a town in eastern Afghanistan. The Shadle Park High School graduate, who joined the Army in 2005, was on a tour in Afghanistan after serving two tours in Iraq.
“He’s come home and will be buried here in hallowed ground,” said Brian Newberry, Fairchild Air Force Base wing commander.
Members of the U.S. Air Force base were there to make sure the family’s needs were met, said Staff Sgt. Michael J. Means.
Uniformed men and women carried Stiltz’s casket from the plane to a hearse where the soldier’s family gathered, shed tears and shared a group hug.
“We the Air Force salute this Army veteran for his sacrifice,” Newberry said. “We also salute and pray for his family. I thanked them on behalf of a grateful nation.”
This war has been going on for a decade, and “we must not forget the sacrifice,” he said.
The commander quoted President Abraham Lincoln: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”