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Richmond Hill to pay last respects to fallen Marine
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An honor guard awaits the arrival of Capt. Matt Freeman’s body at the 165th Airlift Wing on Wednesday afternoon. Freeman, a Marine Corps aviator, was killed in action in Afghanistan earlier this month. - photo by Photo by Ross Blair

A Richmond Hill Marine killed in Afghanistan earlier this month is being remembered as a good man, a devoted family man and a true patriot.

Capt. Matthew Freeman had been assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 36 in Okinawa, but volunteered for a special liaison assignment. Freeman was helping to train the Afghan military on the ground while supporting combat operations in the Kapisa Province.

On Aug. 7, Freeman was on top of a roof directing close air support when he was hit by machine gun fire and killed. There were no other reported fatalities in the area at that time.

“We’re all very proud of him,” said Gary Freeman, Matthew Freeman’s father. “He was a good man. He loved his country, he loved the Marine Corps, and he loved his wife and family.”

Mill Run Road, the Strathy Hall street the Freemans live on, has been decorated by neighbors with more than a hundred flags and a large sign at the entrance to the street that is decorated with his picture and reads, “Capt. Matt Freeman USMC was raised on this island. Last week he gave his life in Afghanistan protecting our freedom. Freedom is not free. Matt is our hero.”

“Everyone liked Matt,” said Richmond Hill High School Principal Charles Spann.

Freeman graduated from Richmond Hill High School in 1998. He was chosen as the Richmond Hill Exchange Club Student of the Year that same year.

Spann said Freeman was an outgoing student who excelled academically and was also an outstanding tennis player.

“He was a young man who was committed to what he wanted to do,” Spann said. “He always knew what he wanted. He wanted to be a pilot.”

Spann said Freeman wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. Gary Freeman is a senior test pilot at Gulfstream and also a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.

“Matt graduated with honors and got his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy,” Spann said.

Freeman graduated from the Naval Academy in 2002. His sister Ginny Freeman is currently attending Annapolis.

Spann said he and the teachers who knew Freeman were shocked and saddened by the news of his death.

“We all remember Matt with a great deal of fondness,” he said. “I’ve known his mother for 12-14 years. She (Lisa Freeman) teaches at the (Richmond Hill) middle school. Many of our students know Matt’s two younger sisters. Our heart goes out to the family.”

Some will remember Freeman for his achievements in high school tennis. He played on two final four tennis teams and played varsity tennis for four years.

“He was an ‘A’ student with interests varying from scouts to church,” said Pat Paruso, his RHHS tennis coach. “Always a leader and always good-natured, the kid was admired by both teachers and peers. He wasn’t a goody-goody. He could be rowdy and tough. My kind of kid. He challenged authority but tempered it with understanding. I won’t ever forget him.”

“The Freemans have been neighbors of my family for over 17 years, and I will always remember Matt as an outstanding young man who loved his family and country,” said Lynn Bennett, who lives on Mill Run Road. “Please remember him and his family in your prayers.”

The city of Richmond Hill plans to honor Freeman by presenting the family with a certificate as part of a program entitled The Last Roll Call, which Mayor Richard Davis started up in 2005. Freeman will be the third recipient in the program that honors Richmond Hill men who have been killed in the line of duty. Prior recipients were Alan Gifford and Sid Brookshire.

“Of course, this is a huge loss to the family, but it is also a huge loss to this community,” Davis said. “Matt grew up here and I knew him to be a very able and smart young man. This city will always remember the honor and the courage of Captain Matthew Freeman.”

Freeman is survived by his wife Theresa, an Air Force flight surgeon. The two wed just three weeks ago. Both graduated from RHHS in 1998.

He also is survived by two sisters, Ginny Freeman and Mary Beth Macias. Mary Beth is married to Air Force Special Operations pilot Mike Macias.

Visitation is scheduled for today at the Richmond Hill United Methodist Church from 5-8 p.m., and the service will take place at the church Saturday at 11 a.m.