(C. Proxmire, June 27, 2012)
A 29-year-old Ferndale serviceman died while in service in Afghanistan on Tuesday. Staff Sgt. Matthew Leach was serving in the US Army Reserves when he was found dead by fellow soldiers. He is survived by a young wife and newborn son, whose names are being withheld until further details are released by the Army and until the family is ready to share.
The Associated Press is reporting that “Military spokesman Major Alex Johnson at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., says Leach was found unresponsive on the ground. Johnson says the cause of death wasn’t immediately determined.
Johnson says Leach enlisted in the Army in 2003 and served until 2008, with two tours of duty in Iraq. Johnson says Leach then entered the Army Reserve and was on his first deployment to Afghanistan.
Leach was part of the 1/334th Regiment, 1st Brigade, 104th Training Division based in Fraser, and the 82nd Airborne Divsion.
Johnson says he didn’t immediately know the nature of Leach’s training assignment.” The US Dept. of Defense issued a brief report.
Jeremy Johnston, a close friend, was saddened to learn of Leach’s passing. “I served with Matt Leach for about 5 years in 82nd Airborne and I am extremely saddened that Matt his gone but never forgotten. Matt always had smile on his face, he was always great friend and leader to his men. Matt’s dedication to himself and others paved the way for younger soldiers to have success in the Army. Matt would always be the guy who tried new things. In Iraq I would have Matt taste some of the food and give me the ok. I will miss his smile, his jokes, and him always beating me at the movie game. I never got to meet his son but, I would tell him that your father is what all of us strive to be. He was outstanding friend, husband and I know the time he spent with you he was outstanding father.”
To Leach he would say “Matt I will forever miss you friend, watch over Dembowski and keep him out of trouble from God. Airborne brother!”
Ferndale has a strong history of supporting Veterans and honoring those who serve our country. From having the longest continuous Memorial Day Parade to the Hangin’ with the Heroes events, Ferndale supports its troops. Ron Gilmour said those at Hangin’ with the Heroes are also hoping to reach out to the family though at this time they do not have contact.
Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter issued a statement of condolences for the family, stating “”The thoughts and prayers of our entire community are with Matt’s wife, son, family and loved ones. We’ve lost a neighbor and patriot, and we’re reminded how painfully high the price of freedom can be. I encourage all residents of Ferndale to fly a flag until Matt comes home, in honor of him and in support of those he leaves behind”
iCasualties.org tracks casualties in the ongoing conflict. Since 2001 there have been at least 2023 American lives lost, and 3064 lives lost including those from Coalition allied nations. Just last month, Michigan’s Fallen walked in the Memorial Day parade, with individuals carrying placards in honor of each Michigan life lost, which at the time was 226.
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UPDATE: Michigan Death Notices website has the following information regarding Leach’s funeral: “Leach SSG Matthew John U.S. Army. Age 29. Passed away June 26, 2012 while serving his country in Afghanistan. Beloved husband of Sarah Leach (Kantz). Loving and devoted father to his seven month old son, Jack Hunter Leach. Dear brother of Alex Leach. Dearest son of Wendy (Jeff) Sawyer and the late Keith Leach. Grandson of Carole Katz and Ed (Sandy) Suppowit. Visitation will take place at Wujek-Calcaterra & Sons, Inc., 36900 Schoenherr at Metro Parkway (16 Mile). Funeral Service will be located at Great Lakes National Cemetery, Holly, MI. For times please call 586-826-8550. In honor of his father’s memory, a Uniform Gift to Minors Act account has been set up to help support Matt and Sarah’s son, Jack and to create a college fund: Bank of America – Jack Hunter Leach”
Note: A previous version of this story indicated that Leach was killed, though the Army has not yet determined the cause of death so the wording has been changed to say “found dead” rather than “was killed.” Details will be added as they are available.