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PostHeaderIcon 2nd Lt. Donald Matocha

By QUALA MATOCHA

Home at last. After missing in action in South Vietnam since April 5, 1968, the remains of U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Donald John Matocha finally came home to his family and friends in the small Southeast Texas town of Smithville.

Lt. Matocha...Donald,
You shall grow not old
As we that are left grow old
Age shall not worry you
Nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember you.

The lost Marine was laid to rest with full military honors Saturday. A crowded Smithville Recreation Center filled with his sisters and brothers, their families, extended families, military personnel, fellow Aggies from Texas A&M University and Gov. Rick Perry, also a Texas A&M graduate, gathered to say "welcome home."

"Semper fidelis" - the Marine Corps motto - means "Always Faithful" and that warm Saturday morning, the Department of Defense and the Corps held true to that promise as Matocha came home, 36 years after his final fight.

The service was held during the same week as National POW/MIA Recognition Day, the time officially designated for the Armed Forces to renew their pledge to the missing - "However long it takes, Whatever it takes us, Whatever the cost" - America's soldiers will be brought home.

The wail of bagpipes signaled the arrival of the flag-draped coffin carrying his remains, which were discovered in July 2003 and positively identified in August of this year, largely thanks to his Aggie class ring.

Following a brief service inside the center, a black hearse carrying Matocha, was flanked by a cadre of Marines who took up formation on either side. To the beat of their marching feet, the hearse was escorted about two miles to Oak Hill Cemetery. There, on Hwy. 95, the procession scaled the hill to his final resting place - right next to his late parents, Raymond and Celestine Goertz Matocha.

Echoing through the solemn procession were the words from three of Matocha's friends, Joseph "Don" Rehmet, John "Doc" Holladay and Stan "Doc" Sellers on their friend and comrade; one of nine children in the Smithville Matocha family who has never been forgotten by the town that sent him off to fight.

"He was my best friend," said Holladay, struggling with the emotion of the moment. They were fellow Aggies in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University, commissioned together and shipped out to Vietnam together, but went their separate ways upon arriving in that war-torn country.

Matocha was assigned to reconnaissance, while Holladay said he was a grunt (infantry soldier). "That was the last time I saw him," he said.

Rehmet, an engineering graduate like Matocha, recalled how brilliant and devoted Matocha was to his studies. He often found himself in Matocha's room when he couldn't understand the assignments.

Matocha could explain the complicated subjects in terms he could understand whereas professors could not, Rehmet said. While most engineering students graduated in 4 to 4 1/2 years, Matocha earned his bachelor of science in civil engineering in 3 1/2 years.

But excellence in academics wasn't anything new for Matocha. He graduated from Smithville High School with honors. The Rev. Howard Goertz, a relative of Matocha's, remembers Thanksgiving holidays at his grandparents Goertz'. Matocha always had his books with him, he said, studying even during his holiday break from A&M. He took time to visit with family, but often would go off to study during those visits.

Sellers, who was the last of the three friends to speak, was assigned to the same unit as Matocha. As a Hospital Corpsman (HM3), he served with Matocha's team Dallas Girl of Delta Company, Third Recon, from February 1968 until April 1968 when he was wounded in the fire fight on Dong Ma mountain the day Matocha was killed.

He has never forgotten his comrade and the sacrifice he made.

"I think I can speak for the whole recon unit that we thought about Donald every day and carried such guilt on leaving him there that you would not believe," Sellers said. "I'm not saying it was not important to the Matocha family, but we felt worse because we were not able to retrieve his body."

Matocha was killed by enemy fire as the Marines attempted to capture a heavily fortified ammunition bunker.

The company suffered heavy losses during the assault in which the young Marine fell. Many attempts were made to recover Matocha's body, Sellers said, but the bunker was later bombed and the effort called off in either May or June of that year.

"Donald always said - and I believe he also wrote his mother Celestine a letter about this - if something were to happen to him, he would not want them sending in any more men to get him out. As a Marine he understood that. He had such a respect for his comrades," Sellers said. Once a soldier dies, his soul goes to heaven and all you are retrieving is the shell of a body, he added, but also said he understands how bringing home those remains is important for the family.

"It is the ultimate sacrifice for any soldier to give his life for God, Country, and his fellow man," commented Sellers. "Because after all you have but one life to offer to them. There is no greater sacrifice than that of a fellow man to give his life for what he believes in, and to give it up for the people of this great country as 2nd Lt. Donald J. Matocha, U.S.M.C., did on April 5,1968. May he rest in peace."

"It's just unfortunate that each time they tried (to retrieve his body) they were unsuccessful. In May or perhaps June of 1968, they finally gave up. He was not declared KIA (killed in action) until enough of his team could verify they saw him die. That was because we were not able to recover the dog tags to have him identified."

Taken from the Book of Wisdom (4:7-15), Wayne Masur, Matocha's nephew, read these words that may have given family members and friends reassurance that Matocha's life was not in vain. "But the just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. For the age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time, nor can it be measured in terms of years. Rather, understanding is the hoary crown for men, and an unsullied life, the attainment of old age. He who pleased God was loved; he who lived among sinners was transported - Snatched away, lest wickedness pervert his mind or deceit beguile his soul; For the witchery of paltry things obscures what is right and the whirl of desire transforms the innocent mind. Having become perfect in a short while, he reached the fullness of a long career; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he sped him out of the midst of wickedness. But the people saw and did not understand, nor did they take this into account."

"It was a beautiful day," Sellers said. "The family could finally put a closure on it. They may not be able to get complete closure, but now they can walk out to the cemetery and say my brother, or my cousin is buried here. It is so much easier."

"A saga that started on a mountain top in the Republic of Vietnam comes to a conclusion,... It ends here in this small Texas farming community that Donald called home. After more then 36 years the last member of team "Dallas Girl", Lt. Donald J. Matocha is home from service to his country, returning to family and friends," said Sellers

PostHeaderIcon I have had a POW/MIA braclet


I have had a POW/MIA braclet of Donald Matocha for about 15 years now, and I was cleaning my jewelry box and found it so I googled his name to see if he was ever brought back home, and I am glad to see that he has. He sounded like such a remarkable young man. God Bless your soul, and thank you for you service. Semper Fi!
Amy

PostHeaderIcon Fish Matocha


I remember him as fish"Yogi Bear" in A2 company. I was not able to continue at A&M until a couple of years later. Finished drafted , OCS and learned of his missing in action. What a wonderful man! I am truly sorry I did not get to know him better. God bless his family. Robert "Thunderoad" Mitcham A2 , fish in '63 class '67.

PostHeaderIcon Lt. Matocha


I was part of the Color Guard detail that picked him up from the Austin Airport and part of the Funeral detail. I think of that day on a regular basis. Being part of that Detail is one of the most rewarding things I have done in the Marine Corps. To the Motocha family, I want you to know that I have not forgoten him, even though I only met him for a second.

JakSeMas