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Marines pause to remember fellow warrior

14 May 2006 | Cpl. Brian Reimers

Maj. Steven J. Kotansky admired the great personality and Marine Corps traits that Sgt. Matthew J. Fenton carried out during his life.

“Throughout our lives, there will be a handful of people that we will never forget,” said Kotansky, the commanding officer of Headquarters and Support Company. “Sergeant Fenton will surely be one of them.”

Marines and sailors recently gathered to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Fenton, who was wounded in action on April 26 and later died of his wounds May 5. A memorial service was held here May 14. 

The 24 year-old Fenton was a supply clerk and also served as a turret gunner for 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5.  Fenton was from Little Ferry, N.J.

The ‘New England’s Own’ battalion is currently operating in Fallujah, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“He would go to the end of the world, if need be, for just about anyone,” said Sgt. Denny G. Meadows, a close friend of Fenton, from Worcester, Mass. “He had a huge heart. He loved his family and his friends so much.”

Marines and friends remembered Fenton for his comedic personality, love of poker, and strong leadership capabilities. He found ways to make any situation a humorous one.

“The thing that I am going to miss the most about him, is his sense of humor,” said Sgt. David T. Rowland, the battalion’s armory chief.  “He had a very optimistic way about him. He would look on the bright side of everything.”

Fenton’s passion for poker was something that none of his close friend could seem to forget, he truly loved the game.

“He would repeatedly tell me this story about a time he went to a casino, and within a few minutes of being there he had already wasted all but a few dollars,” said Sgt. Robert W. Lauterbach, who served with Fenton for six years.

“After moping around half of the night, he decided to try his luck with the rest of his money,” added Lauterbach.  “He more than tripled what he had walked into the casino with. After that story, he would hold up a one dollar chip that he kept in his pocket and say ‘I am going to make a million dollars out of this.’”

When he wasn’t joking around and smiling from cheek to cheek, Fenton was a passionate man who wanted to help others.

“He brought the best out of you,” said Kotansky, 37, originally from Buffalo, N.Y.  “He genuinely cared about how you were doing.”

“Of all the people, I went to Matt when things were rough in my life,” Lauterbach added. “He was the true definition of a friend.”

Marines here honored Fenton with the traditional memorial for a fallen Marine, a helmet sitting on top of an inverted rifle with identification tags resting next to a pair of combat boots.  A 21-gun salute echoed through the camp, followed by the soft sound of “Taps,” played by a Marine bugler.  More than 300 Marines gathered to pay their last respects to Fenton.

“We as friends, Marines, and a nation took a serious hit the day Sergeant Matthew Fenton went down,” said Meadows, 26. “We lost him, but we will never forget him.”

“In memory of Matt, the Marines of 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, must continue the fight,” added Rowland, 25, from Dallas, Ore.

Fenton graduated from high school in 2000 and enlisted in the Marine Corps March 7 of that year.  After boot camp, he attended Marine Corps Combat Training and then the Basic Supply Course, both located in North Carolina.  He graduated with the military occupational specialty of 3043, a basic supply operations clerk.

His personal awards include the Purple Heart Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.