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Army Sgt. Matthew F. Straughter

Died January 31, 2008 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

27, of St. Charles, Mo.; assigned to the 1138th Engineer Company, 35th Engineer Brigade, Missouri National Guard, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; died Jan. 31 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when his vehicle was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Mo. guardsman dies in Iraq

By Betsy Taylor

The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — An Army specialist with the Missouri National Guard died after his vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq, the military said Monday.

Matthew Straughter, 27, of Belleville, Ill., died Thursday in Baghdad from his wounds. He enlisted while living in St. Charles, Mo., and was assigned to the 1138th Engineer Company, 35th Engineer Brigade.

Several families with ties to the National Guard learned of Straughter’s death Saturday, when they gathered at Mineral Area College in eastern Missouri for a support gathering for military families.

They expected to have a video teleconference with their loved ones currently serving in Iraq, but a technical problem prevented it from taking place.

Capt. Tamara Spicer said the news of Straughter’s death was delivered in person to the families there by a chaplain’s candidate. While it’s never easy to relay news of a death, she said the military believed word was delivered in a comforting way. Straughter’s family was notified separately and not in attendance at the gathering.

The Park Hills Daily Journal reported Straughter and his wife have five children, and that he was part of the group that left Farmington, Mo., on July 21. A family member declined comment to The Associated Press Monday.

Straughter joined the Missouri Army National Guard as a combat engineer in December 2005 and mobilized last July.

His unit located improvised explosive devices and maintained traffic flow along military supply routes. Straughter served on Operation Jump Start, the border security mission in Arizona from November of 2006 to last June 2007.

The Missouri National Guard said funeral arrangements are pending.

‘Angel soldier’ remembers guardsman killed in Iraq

The Associated Press

Donna Norman got to know Matthew F. Straughter while she manned a ball-field concession stand and the young soldier was staying at the armory waiting for deployment.

Norman and Straughter would chat during summer games. He called her “Mama Popcorn.” The two exchanged e-mails before he went overseas. She adopted him as an angel soldier.

“I received an e-mail from him,” she recalled. “He said, ‘I’m in Iraq now, I can’t tell you where. I really enjoy getting the things you send me. They make me laugh, sometimes it’s the only time during the day I do laugh. Thanks, Mama Popcorn.”’

Straughter, 27, of St. Charles, Mo., was killed by a roadside bomb Jan. 31 in Baghdad. He was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood, Kan.

Straughter joined the National Guard as a combat engineer in December 2005. He served on Operation Jump Start, the border security mission in Arizona, from November 2006 to June 2007.

He is survived by his wife, Renee, and five children.

“He was proud of his children, his family was important to him. He would come to the stands and watch children playing ball. I knew he was thinking of his own children,” said Norman.

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