Tuesday, April 24, 2007

C/3c Matthew La Porte

The Air Force lost one of its own in the VT shootings. Hits closer to home than usual for me because this Cadet was a 200; he was going to Field Training this summer. I could have easily ran into him down at Maxwell AFB. Here's what his Det. CO had to say:

"Matthew was a professional and hardworking cadet who was dedicated to improving himself in the Air Force ROTC program," said Col. Dan Lentz, commander of ROTC Detachment 875. "He was working hard to prepare for ROTC field training this summer, and he was committed to serving as an officer in the Air Force when he graduated. We mourn his passing as we mourn all of the persons who lost their lives during the shootings. We offer our thoughts and prayers to all those who have suffered during this tragedy."

Here's some more on Matthew from some other sources:

DUMONT -- Matt La Porte's bearing was obvious from a young age.

He would address elders as ma’am and sir, said Marie Grieco, who has lived next door to La Porte's family in Dumont for more than 20 years.

“Listen up, Matthew, I’m Mrs. Grieco," she'd say to him. "You don’t have to call me ma’am.’”

But that was Matt's way, those who knew him said.


During summers home from boarding school, La Porte biked to a lifeguarding job at the Cresskill Municipal Pool. In the fall, on his way back to school, he could be seen leaving home in a crisp blue uniform and military cap.

La Porte was one of two recent graduates from Carson Long Military Institute in Pennsylvania, enrolled at Virginia Tech, where he was a sophomore."


" MATTHEW LA PORTE believed he was blessed with a second chance in life.

The self-described "troubled boy" from North Jersey entered seventh grade at a military boarding school in 1999 filled with doubt and bitterness.

But during his years at Carson Long Military Institute in central Pennsylvania, La Porte turned himself around. He forged friendships, got good grades and evolved into a campus leader.

In a heartfelt yearbook entry, La Porte described a spiritual journey, a metamorphosis from foolish boy to responsible man upon his 2005 graduation with top honors.

"He felt himself changing," La Porte wrote. "He changed so much, that I am not quite sure if that boy and I are the same person. Now I know that Carson Long was my second chance. . . . I'm ever thankful. I've made it."


"In an oration Mr. La Porte wrote before graduating, he said he arrived at Carson Long as a troubled student who ultimately "found himself."

That troubled student, he wrote of himself, "learned how to be responsible for himself and eventually, also for others. He changed so much, that I am not quite sure if that boy and I are the same person. Now, I know that Carson Long was my second chance, and nothing could make me more proud than to be standing here today, at the end of this experience -- this journey on which most don't even dare to embark."

As a cadet leader, Mr. La Porte was often calm and calculating, displaying an ability to deal with challenges that "was just phenomenal," said Lt. Colonel Rodney P. Grove, the school's commander of cadets.

"I know that as an air force officer he would have been outstanding," he said. "I also know that he was looking for something in his life that would allow him to really make a difference in other people's lives. He was desperate to make a difference."

Mr. La Porte's family was first notified of his death by the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, of which their son was a member, and then later by the Virginia state police. Chief Venezio said he spoke with the La Porte family this morning, and described them as a private family "who are suffering greatly."

In his oration, Mr. La Porte spoke of them -- his mother, father, and sister Priscilla.

"You've been relentless and persistent, putting your all into me," he wrote. "I love you. And Dad, I hope that I've become a man in your eyes, and that whatever I do in life, you are proud of me."

I'm rather speechless. Such a waste. The Air Force lost a good cadet and a good potential officer that day. More importantly, students lost a friend and a family lost a son and a brother.

Matthew La Porte