Northwest combat flier dies in Iraq

Charlie Matheny, a Northwest control-line combat flier and son of combat flier Chuck Matheny, was killed in action in Iraq recently.

The Associated Press moved this short item, provided to Flying Lines by Mel Lyne.

STANWOOD, Wash. -- Sgt. Charles E. Matheny, IV, 23, of Stanwood was killed in Baghdad on Feb. 18 when an improvised explosive device detonated near him.
Matheny was assigned to the Army's 704th Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, based in Fort Hood, Texas.

The hearts of all control-line fliers go out to Chuck Matheny and family.

Farewell to a friend, flier, soldier

By Dan Rutherford

Taps will play on Monday...

A long-time friend of Northwest modelers of all stripes, Chuck Matheny, lost his son Charles "Charlie" E. Matheny, IV in Iraq on Feb. 18.

There was a service for Charlie on Monday, 27 February, at the Price-Hilton funeral home in Auburn, Wash. Charlie was buried in Tahoma Cemetery following the service.

Charlie had reached the rank of sergeant, his interests and skills dedicated to diesel mechanics. He was on his second tour in Iraq, although this time he was stationed in a particularly nasty section of Baghdad, an area where most of our troops function as Military Police regardless of specialized training.

His unit was tasked with showing Iraqi forces how to use U.S. weaponry, the tactics used by the U.S. Army.

Charlie strongly believed in what he was doing and in his unit. The night he was killed he had volunteered for the hazardous mission, just as he had done many times. In his unit were those whom are married, most with children. Charlie would frequently volunteer for dangerous missions so fellow soldiers could stay in a more secure environment.

While I do not have full details, as Charlie and another soldier drove by, a cluster bomb was remotely exploded, the bomb having been disguised by being painted to look like a rock. Charlie was killed instantly. The other soldier survived, although he was nearly cut in half by the blast, losing his legs and more.

I understand that not all of you know Chuck Matheny. He is a dedicated modeler, one whom many of us in this region remember from his involvement in AMA CL Combat, teaming with Spencer Sheldrew. Although Chuck has not flown this event for a number of years he remains heavily involved in RC modeling, with a serious interest in CL still.

One of the areas in which he participates to a high level is RC Combat. A treasured memory of his son Charlie is the time they spent flying against each other. During Charlie's military leave prior to his second tour they literally flew together for days, logging each flight as to duration. The total of in-air RC Combat ran to over 20 hours!

Some of you will remember the very nasty Chevy Vega which Chuck built to nearly Pro-Street standards. Small-block V-8 stuffed in there somehow, rear slicks so large the inner wheel wells had to be removed, this referred to as "tubbing" as sheet-metal tubs are welded in to allow clearance for the massive tires.

While the Vega is only marginally legal for street use, quite quick and far from a daily driver, Charlie built a thoroughly modded Mustang, fed it lots of nitrous. To the point where he could put his father's Vega on the trailer at will.

So while Charlie and Chuck--to be perfectly blunt--at times had an adversarial relationship during Charlie's early years, the young man matured quite well, the demands of military duty helping immeasurably in this regard.

During the last years of Charlie's life, he and Chuck got along famously, having many common interests, spending a lot of time together.

For what it's worth, I heard of this tragedy on Friday and from Buzz Wilson. I asked for Chuck's home phone number. Buzz responded that it might be a tough phone call to place. My answer, "Damn right, it will be a difficult call. But Chuck deserves it. He's what we call a Good Guy."

It was difficult, at least in the beginning. But Chuck is very smart guy in addition to being an all-around good guy. He understands grief and how simply talking about it with a friend helps to spread the grief around a little bit, what overt support can mean during the times he is now facing.

I am hoping that as many of us as possible can attend services for Charlie Matheny. Our attendance will mean a lot to Chuck, of that you can be assured.

For those outside the Northwest few of whom know Chuck or have even heard of him, I would regard it as a much-appreciated personal favor if you simply drop him a note concerning the tragic loss of his son, a young man who was dedicated to the missions he was given, protection of the freedoms we far too often take for granted.

Chuck Matheny
13713 83rd Avenue N.E.
Arlington, WA 98223

That was inspiring...

I had never been to a funeral for one so young. Charlie Matheny was 23 years old when killed in Iraq.

I had never been to a funeral where supporters--not one of whom actually knew Charlie--lined the sidewalk outside the funeral home, holding U.S. flags, having placed more and smaller flags along the sidewalk, in the planting area.

I had never been to a funeral service conducted primarily by the U.S. Army.

I had never heard a modeling event--RC Combat--mentioned during a funeral service.

I had never seen an outlaw biker giving a heartfelt hug to a U.S. Army general.

I had never attended a military burial service, this conducted entirely by the U.S. Army.

Truly, it was inspiring.

Even the weather was exactly correct: Overcast, slightly chilly, a light rain.

Modelers were represented. Steve Helmick, Buzz Wilson, Howard Rush, Jeff Rein and I were there.

Charlie's father, our friend Chuck Matheny, was thoroughly moved and none too comfortable speaking to the crowd. But he worked through it in a commendable fashion, with the honesty and openness we have come to expect from him.

Another family representative, while not at ease of course was quite good. Many anecdotal stories of Charlie's life, delivered in an entirely appropriate tone. Sad stories, funny stories, a celebration of Charlie's too-short life.

And Charlie did indeed conduct himself in a heroic fashion while in Iraq. The act of selflessly volunteering for dangerous missions so his married friends would be placed at less risk was a common theme for the young man, not a few incidental acts.

Why would he do this? From those who knew him best, Charlie just could not have lived with the knowledge that friends may have been hurt or killed had he not intervened by taking hazardous duty upon himself.

Toward the end of the ceremony there was a short video, accompanied by Aerosmith playing "I Don't Want to Miss A Thing." Honestly, I was dreading this. It is so easy to take this kind of presentation clear over the top.

Not so this time. Quite well done in all ways.

As we left the building the flag-bearing supporters were still out front. There is something comforting about people first showing up to support a fallen hero at the beginning of the ceremony and still being there as the ceremony ends. None of them just phoned it in...

And there was an impressive line of choppers in the parking lot. All backed up to a curb, angled just so, the easier to seamlessly pull away in joining the procession to the burial site.

It was pretty obvious early on that the bikers were also there in support of a fallen hero. And that this was hardly the first time they had seen this movie.

The leader of the group was a big, burly man with unkempt hair and beard, three-up, one-rocker sergeant's insignia on his jacket.

Perfect, just perfect. I was nearly moved to tears at the thought of the bikers and the supporters in front of the building being there based upon principle and a very strong sense of patriotism.

The U.S. Army general came from the building, greeted the leader of the bikers, they exchanged a few words...

And embraced.

Oh, man!

One lives a life filled with rules written by others and is obviously successful.

One lives a life based upon his own rules and is also successful.

The contrast could not have been more stark, and yet they were here for shared reasons, honoring Sgt. Charles "Charlie" E. Matheny, IV.

It was a service which filled the funeral home, and thus the procession was a long one. Headed up by Charlie's body in the hearse, his family in stretch limos, the bikers bringing up the rear in a glorious display of rolling thunder.

As we left the funeral home, all the supporters in front of the building and alongside the main street through Auburn, Washington, moved to the middle of the street, flanking the cars in the precession. One could not possibly have witnessed this show of support without being moved.

I am thoroughly chagrined to admit that I was slightly suspicious in the beginning. In this state we have seen the absolutely shameless spectacle of anti-war protesters making their case during funerals for our soldiers; I was further moved to suspicion when one of the local television stations was seen filming and doing interviews.

I was wrong, thank God.

Tahoma Cemetery is a military burial ground and is located in a lightly-populated area.

Still, this is a route used by funeral processions for the military and it was with immense gratification that I noticed a man in his late 70s standing outside his home workshop. He had obviously been working in the shop, but upon hearing the sirens of the escort service he stepped outside and stood still, a hand held over his heart.

A small gesture? Possibly. But not to me and not at that point in time.

It is stunning to see the rows and rows of graves in Tahoma.

Even more telling, there were signs of clearing land, planting more grass, all toward expanding an operation which already seems much too large to readily comprehend as to the lives lost in defending our great country.

The burial service was conducted entirely by the U.S. Army and seemed timed to begin shortly after the last of the big V-twins went silent.

Bagpipes, clean-cut men in their dress uniforms, a thoroughly and absolutely professional ceremony in all ways.

To me, the most impressive act was folding the flag draping Charlie's coffin. They do this in the hardest way possible you know, the flag held in the air by six men, slowly, slowly and with painstaking care making each fold. The folded flag was then passed along the line of bearers, to the NCO in charge, to the general who then presented it to Chuck.

Another flag was brought forth, draped on Charlie's coffin for a moment and then it too was folded and presented to Charlie's mother.

While it was small thing, if one took the time to look there were people making a complete record of the service for the family. Again, thoroughly professional and respectful; one had to specifically look for the people with cameras and video equipment to even know they were at work.

I didn't want to hear of my friend's son dying in service to our country. Strictly speaking, and to be perfectly blunt, I didn't even want to be at the funeral service or the burial ceremony.

I am so very pleased to have been at both ceremonies.

It really was an incredibly inspiring experience.

"My Heart is Edged in Black"

Once my heart was filled with the light and
ardor of a friendship;
Moments I can now only treasure,
Then, only happened without a second thought.
I enjoyed our friendship without judgment
And, pray that you now know,
I feel a tremendous loss!
Suddenly, all is over...
Your mortal life has come to an end.
It seems a dream that you have vanished,
never to come back, again.
For you, Charlie, my thoughts are filled with
memories and my heart is edged in black.
Rest in Peace my Brother, My Friend,
For You Will Be Greatly missed,
Sgt. Charles E. Matheny
Until We Meet Again!

Written by: Sgt. Heath (Tiger) Ward ,B Co. 704th, 4th Infantry Div., Baghdad, Iraq, Best Friend and Big Brother

A personally pleasing number of you have responded to my first email by indicating that you will be sending a note to Chuck Matheny.

I thank you for that.

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This page was upated April 13, 2006