A flag stand’s handcrafted wooden base that Fred Hunter built in memory of his son Matthew David Hunter now holds a U.S. flag in the atrium at Pittsburgh VA’s University Drive campus. Hunter donated the stand to Pittsburgh VA and another just like it to the Belmont County Community Based Outpatient Clinic in St. Clairsville, Ohio.

Sgt. Matthew Hunter, 31, died Jan. 23, 2006, during combat operations in Iraq when a roadside bomb detonated near his dismounted patrol. A combat field medic, Matthew enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1992 and transitioned to active duty in 1996. At the time of his death, the West Virginia native was serving with the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

“I cried so much that, for many years after, I didn’t have any tears,” said Fred Hunter, 75, of Glen Dale, West Virginia, on the loss of his eldest son. “It took all of my tears out of my body.”

wooden flag stand

A Vietnam Veteran’s flag stand gift honors fallen soldier son killed in Iraq. “Matthew stood for everything good and you can’t forget good soldiers.”

Son dreamed of becoming a veterinarian

Growing up, Matthew wanted to help others, which drove his decision to become an Army medic. He dreamed of becoming a veterinarian and had asked his family to send him supplies in Iraq to care for stray dogs.

“Matthew stood for everything good, and you can’t forget good soldiers,” said Fred, a Navy Veteran who served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid during the Vietnam War. He said his son proudly served, honoring his family’s tradition of military service: Matthew’s late paternal grandfather, James Hunter, served in the Air Force as a radio operator on a B-29 bomber with service in the Korean War; Matthew’s late maternal grandfather, Arthur Nixon, fought with an Army tank battalion in the Battle of the Bulge.

VA humbled and honored for tribute to his son

Nixon and Matthew Hunter received Purple Hearts. Matthew was also posthumously awarded a Bronze Star, and West Virginia renamed a bridge on Route 40 in Wheeling in his honor, called the “U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew D. Hunter Memorial Bridge.”

After donating the first stand to the Belmont clinic, Fred decided during a visit to the University Drive campus to build a second stand for Pittsburgh VA. The stand is fashioned from birch plywood with oak veneer edges and oak crown molding around the base; he donated the stand during a formal ceremony in the campus’s atrium.

Acting Director Denise Boehm accepted the flag.

“Mr. Hunter, we are so honored and humbled to have this beautiful tribute to your son, Matthew, in our atrium,” Boehm said. “I can think of no greater way to remember and honor Matthew Hunter and all service members killed in action than a strong foundation beneath this ultimate symbol of freedom and the cost of war.”

Read the full story here.

By Shauna Gonzales and Liz Zemba are public affairs officers at Pittsburgh VA

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Published on Jun. 4, 2022

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