Below is the story of a Fox Creek Leather customer and his family. His mother, Suzanne, shared some words with us about his life, and the ultimate sacrifice he made to our country to share with you all on this Memorial Day.
“Matthew Gabriel Wagstaff 1976 ~ 2010 A son, a husband, a brother, an uncle, and our HERO. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew Gabriel Wagstaff was taken from us on September 21st 2010 while serving his country in Afghanistan. His awards and decorations included (more pending): Bronze Star Medal; Air Medal; Army Commendation Medal; Joint Meritorious Unit Award; Meritorious Unit Commendation; National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal; Iraq Campaign Medal; Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon; NATO Medal and Army Aviator Badge.”
“This story begins on February 8, 1976, when Matthew came into this world as a bright shiny star. He was born on a Sunday, which seemed appropriate as his name means “gift of God” (Gabriel means “man of God; my strength is God”) and Matthew truly was our gift from God. The labor was long and hard, but he was worth every bit of it. You see Matthew captured my heart from the moment I heard his heartbeat for the very first time and felt him move within me… it’s a love that will continue until the day I leave this earth and am once again reunited with my wonderful son. This is the day that the memories began. This is the day that I became a mom for the very first time and my life changed into something wonderful.
Matthew was a very loving child, which continued into his adult years. He excelled in school, which is where his dream of flying started. Matt won the Reflections contest in elementary school with his submission of a drawing he did of the NASA space shuttled. He was fascinated about space and couldn’t read enough it. His dream since the age of 5 was to pilot the space shuttle and he really wanted to go to NASA’s Space Camp.
Matt had a photographic memory, which drove his friends in college crazy. They talked about cramming for days prior to an exam and that Matt would wait till the day of the exam, scan through his text book and notes and would ace the exam and they would barely pass. He had an amazing brain, but what I loved most was his willingness to help others to excel. No matter what he was doing if his brother or sister needed help with school work he would step in and help out.
Matt LOVED football… he started playing football in the 4th grade and because of his size and weight the coach had him play Center. He continued playing Center and Nose Guard through high school. I loved watching how much the team would look to Matt for inspiration… he would get everyone pumped up and if team members on the sideline weren’t getting into the game he would pump them up every time he came in while the defense team was on the field. Matt was also a “walk on” for the Utah State Football Team.
Matt attended Utah State University where he was originally accepted into their Aerospace Engineering program, but later changed over to Aerospace Technologies. He decided that he wasn’t near as interested in designing an aircraft as he was with putting one together and actually flying it. It was through his lifetime dream of flight that lead him to the military. He met with several branches of the military, but ultimately decided on the Army after finding out that he could be an officer and still maintain his flight status. In addition, his 6’4″ / 250 lb frame wouldn’t restrict him from flying the aircraft that he wanted.
When Matt took the Army pre-flight exam, he obtained the highest test score in the region that the Army had seen at that time, especially from an applicant that had never flown before. They were so impressed that they actually had some Army brass that flew in from other states to meet him when he was sworn in. Matt excelled in the Army just as he did in all the years leading up to joining… I know, big shock. LOL! He was promoted during boot camp (Fort Knox, KY) for a Private First Class, received the sharp shooter award during the graduation ceremony, and upon graduation was immediately promoted to Sargent. He went from boot camp directly to WOC (Warrant Officer Candidate) School (Fort Rutgers, AL) where he graduated top in his class as a CW1 or CWO1 (Chief Warrant Officer 1). He then started his pilot training, also at Fort Rutgers, and excelled there as well… so much so that he was able to select which aircraft he wanted to train on. Matt selected the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter for several reasons: 1) it allowed him greater flexibility to transition to commercial fixed winged aircrafts when he retired from the military; and 2) there were a lot more “duty stations” (locations) to choose from while serving. Since Matt graduated top of his class on the UH-60 Blackhawk he was rewarded with the opportunity to get first pick of the various duty stations available. There was one position available at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin (CA), which is usually only open for CW2’s or higher, but they accepted Matt as a CW1 and off he went.
I still remember the day that Matt called home and could hardly wait to share the news about being in the first Transformers movie. Whenever Hollywood does a film that requires military equipment they have to work with the local military to rent the equipment, but also employ military personnel authorized to operate the equipment. Matt was the lead Blackhawk that you see in the Transformer movie and it is Matt that is flying the aircraft that attempts to rescue the “cube” at the top of the building with Shia LeBeouf. Our family watches this movie often, because it makes us feel like Matt is still with us… it brings smiles and tears.
Matthew was the first member of our family to purchase from Fox Creek Leather. I still remember when he shared the results of his research when he found Fox Creek online. He was thrilled when he received his riding jacket. He also purchased his favorite riding gloves from Fox Creek. My husband loved Matt’s riding jacket so much that he decided to order the same jacket for himself and has been wearing it for about 8 years now. I purchased a set of chaps and a belt as well. At some point I’ll purchase a riding jacket for myself as well.”
— Suzanne Wagstaff