Matt spent his childhood in Kingston, ON, British Columbia, and St. Bruno, QC. He played volleyball and was a loyal Habs fan. As a young man, he was a gifted actor who enjoyed the spotlight. As a young cadet, his kindness and sense of humour helped pave the way for many first being introduced to academy life.
Matt was a self-assured leader whose men looked to him for guidance. He honed his leadership skills in school where he was often a captain in team sports. Although Matt struggled in his first year of military school, he became the top cadet in his class and graduated with honours in civil engineering. Along the way, he won the Prince of Wales Trophy for excellence in sports.
His love of hockey, especially the Montreal Canadiens, never dimmed. He treasured watching hockey with his son and tried to make game time fun even when Lucas was an infant. His love for his son and country led him to enlist on June 16, 1999.
Matt didn’t like to be away from his family, but felt he and his fellow soldiers were doing good work. He saw the Taliban and Al Qaeda killing innocent people and said in a letter to his son, “I can’t let that happen. I don’t ever want to see anything like this come to our home. That’s why I’m here.” Matt strove to be the best at everything he could and used his positive attitude to carry him through the extreme heat, sand and constant danger soldiers in Afghanistan face.
While in Afghanistan, Matt used his leadership skills to encourage his men whenever he could. He played the comedian to make them laugh, but understood the importance of being serious when necessary.
While on patrols, Matt talked directly to Afghan farmers to solve problems. He learned enough of the language that he could speak without an interpreter and directly connect with the farmers he was trying to help. The respect he had for the people he tried to help and for his men was reflected in the respect they had for him. His platoon was nicknamed 1-2 Can-Do because they got the tough jobs done.
On the procession from Trenton to Toronto, Matt’s son noticed the outpouring of support from the people who lined the overpasses and roads to pay tribute to Matt and the five soldiers who were lost with him. As they drove past the crowds, Lucas waved and said, “Go, Daddy’s boys.”
By Rhonda Kronyk