Family, friends will miss Medical Group Airman
By Tech. Sgt. Karen Brun , 92nd ARW Public Affairs
/ Published April 18, 2006
FAIRCHILD AFB, Wash. -- As the white-gloved-hands of a lone honor guard member delicately placed a red, blue and white wreath on the altar, many stood in somber silence to pay their final respects to a fallen hero during a memorial service on Tuesday at the Base Chapel here.
Staff Sgt. Matthew Walrod, 25, aerospace medical service specialist, assigned to the 92nd Medical Operations Squadron, lost his life in an automobile accident last Friday while on a 120-day deployment to La Ceiba, Honduras.
He was deployed as an independent duty medical technician since mid-January in support of New Horizons Honduras – Task Force Asegurar el Futuro, a joint training exercise that is slated to construct a clinic, four schools and to provide free medical care for the local community.
The Family Health Clinic here has been Sergeant Walrod’s only permanent assignment since his initial 1999 enlistment, and for those who knew him well, he is being remembered as a caring, dedicated professional who truly loved helping people.
“I had the pleasure of having a front row seat to his career,” said Master Sgt. William Bowers, 92nd Military Support Squadron, manpower analyst, who was assigned to the medical group as Sergeant Walrod’s supervisor upon his arrival here six years ago.
“He simply liked people and it was not just a job to Matt, it was a way of life. He was always a medic 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He was a special kid.”
Proof of his caring and ambitious demeanor was quickly realized when in January 2001, at a downtown establishment, Sergeant Walrod observed someone who had lost consciousness. As the first person on the scene, he initiated life saving measures, to include administering CPR for ten continuous minutes until the ambulance arrived. His actions saved the man’s life.
“After the incident, in my opinion, this became the defining moment in his life,” said Sergeant Bowers. “This changed him. This showed him that he truly had what it took to get the job done.”
Although Sergeant Walrod could always get a laugh with his animated voices and John Wayne impersonations, he took his work seriously.
“He was a humanitarian and he cared very much about people,” said Lt. Col. Eleanor Foreman, 92nd MDOS commander. “It wasn’t just his caring; he took it to the next level. He was selfless, extremely ambitious, motivated, goal orientated and truly a shining star. His patients, providers and colleagues alike all loved him. He truly understood the mission and had a love of the Air Force. He loved the role he played.”
At only 25 years old, Sergeant Walrod had accomplished a tremendous amount, said Colonel Foreman.
He had already completed a bachelor’s degree and was only three classes shy of completing a master’s degree.
While his steadfast determination to become an officer someday was not yet within reach, a highly sought after assignment to the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hulbert Field was. He was scheduled to report to his new assignment upon his return
According to Tech Sgt. Joseph W. Reffner, 92nd MDOS non-commissioned officer in charge and personal friend, Sergeant Walrod never gave up on anything.
“Whatever it took, he made it happen, even if it meant staying extra hours or coming in on his off days. He was usually the first one here in the morning and the last one to leave at night. Matt wanted to become an officer and to become a lawyer, although he also wanted to be a doctor. He did not let barriers get in his way. He had the drive to succeed,” said Sergeant Reffner.
Even at play, Sergeant Walrod’s determination shined through. Although his love of chess sometimes meant him losing every game to one of his coworkers, he eventually mastered the game and became the one to beat.
For an airman who was known for the sparkle in his eyes and the love of mankind, the ultimate tribute is truly fitting.
In honor of a humanitarian they affectionately named “Doc”, plans are in the works to officially name the clinic currently under construction in Honduras as the “Walrod Memorial Clinic.”
“Matt, you may have never pondered the true extent of the impact you had on the thousands of lives you touched throughout the course of your 25 years. It may never have crossed your mind during your lifetime, but you are a hero,” said Colonel Foreman. “You will never know how sad our hearts are today as we bid you a final farewell.”