Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Matthew K S Swanson

Lake Forest, California

August 8, 2009

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
20 Army Spc

3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry)

Fort Drum, New York

 Died Aug. 8 at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over July 19 in Logar Province, Afghanistan.

Spc. Matthew K.S. Swanson, 20, of Lake Forest, California, joined the Army in October 2007 after graduating from Trabuco Hills High School in 2007. He came to Fort Drum in May 2008. In January of 2009, he deployed to Afghanistan, serving as a combat engineer with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team for the 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). Matthew was involved in a vehicle roll-over July 19 in Logar Province, Afghanistan and he suffered traumatic injuries. He was transported to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland for treatment. On July 27, his family was there as he received the Purple Heart, pinned to his hospital gown. His family removed life-support from him on August 8, and Matt's organs were donated to save other lives. His other awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, and Combat Action Badge. Matty was mature beyond his years, and his conversations showed that. Life was an adventure for him, and his passion and charisma were a part of all he did. He shared a special bond with his sister, and when home on leave from Afghanistan, he presented her with a flower he had picked from a mountain in Afghanistan. A special gift from him to her, showing her he was thinking about her while there. Matthew is survived by his parents and his sister. 

Burial:
Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend.
Specifically: His cremains distributed to his mother, father, and sister
From the Los Angeles Times latimes.com 09/27/09

Army Spc. Matthew K.S. Swanson, 20, Lake Forest; dies of injuries in vehicle rollover
The combat engineer suffered brain and back injuries when he was thrown from an MRAP, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, that overturned in Afghanistan.
September 27, 2009|Scott Gold

In June, Army Spc. Matthew K.S. Swanson came home from Afghanistan on leave and visited his sister, Traci Swanson, in Chicago. The two were best friends. Matthew, as usual, had an idea: They would get tattoos together of cantutas, brightly colored flowers from Peru.

According to an Inca legend, the sons of two rulers were forced into battle, wounded each other, forgave one another and then died, side by side, in a grassy field. There, cantutas bloomed -- a symbol of unity, family and hope.

Matthew got three flowers tattooed on one arm, one for his half brother, Hakan, 11; one for Traci, 24; and one for himself. His sister had her flowers tattooed on her back.

"It was no big deal to him. But I was so scared," she said. "I'm so glad I have it now."

Swanson, a combat engineer with the 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) at Ft. Drum, N.Y., died Aug. 8 at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He was 20. Swanson had been injured July 19 when he was thrown from a military vehicle that overturned in central Afghanistan's Logar province, south of Kabul.

A memorial service was held in the Lake Forest resident's honor Thursday at Ft. Drum.

Swanson was born in Denver and, due to his father's military postings, moved several times during his childhood. He enlisted in the Army after graduating from Trabuco Hills High School in Mission Viejo in 2007.

He had been promoted to specialist ahead of schedule and recently had been accepted to the Rangers' Airborne School, which required him to tack another five years onto his two-year Army commitment.

"He loved it. He loved the Army," said his father, Jeff, a retired Air Force officer who lives in Lake Forest. "His career was really taking off."

Swanson loved the outdoors and hiked, biked and camped frequently when home in California. He also was a music buff and had two electric guitars with him in Afghanistan. He'd recently purchased a motorcycle there and hoped to drive it across the United States upon his return.

"He was this big Army guy. But when he would come home, he was our Matt," his sister said.

The results of the military investigation into the accident have not yet been released to the family. But they said their conversations with members of Swanson's platoon indicate that he died after being thrown from an MRAP, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. His family said the vehicle was pulling another one down a hill when it appeared that the brakes failed, causing both vehicles to roll twice.

Swanson was treated in Germany and in Bethesda, with his family at his side. But he had suffered severe injuries to his brain and back and was in a coma.

"His body healed. His body was very, very strong," his father said. "But his brain was never going to recover."

Said his sister: "It was clear that it was irreversible. My brother could live for some time. But he would never be the same. He would never wake up and be Matthew."

The family decided to remove him from life support. He lived for another 56 minutes.

In addition to his father, sister and half brother, Swanson is survived by his mother, Ana Lara; and his stepfather, Hakan Larsson Sr.

His funeral was held at Fairhaven Memorial Park and Mortuary in Santa Ana.

The family had his body cremated. He and his sister had been scheduled to vacation in Europe next summer; some of his ashes will be spread there, Traci Swanson said, as well as in a patch of wilderness near Temecula where he had enjoyed hiking.


"There are a lot of things in life that he won't get to do," his sister said. "We're going to kind of fulfill it for him, and spread the ashes in the places he loved."

Swanson was an organ donor. His family learned this month that doctors had used his eye tissue donations to restore the vision of two patients.
Sister remembers surprise gift from the war zone

The Associated Press

Matthew Swanson was a beloved brother who once brought home a flower he picked on an Afghanistan mountain for his older sister.

“Over the past 20 years I don’t think he has ever given me such a beautiful gift,” said his sister, Traci. “It gave me validation that he was thinking of me while he was out there.”

Swanson, 20, of Lake Forest, Calif., died Aug. 8 at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He had suffered injuries in a vehicle rollover July 19 in Logar province, Afghanistan. He was based at Fort Drum, N.Y.

Swanson joined the Army in October 2007.

“Matthew was a solider, a hero, a friend, a brother,” his sister said. “His charisma, bravery, passion will always be remembered.”

His closest friends said at his service that they also fondly would remember his pranks and the music he played on his guitar.

He is survived by his parents and sister.

“He always wanted a job where he was making a difference,” Swanson’s father, Jeff, said. “He’s a hero in more ways than one.”

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