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Fallen Marine remembered as a trooper
WEST VALLEY CITY -- Matthew Reed Smith loved to camp, fish, hunt and shoot guns. When he was a little boy he would dress in military camouflage and build guns out of Legos, his father Gary remembers. To his family, it was quite clear at an early age that Matthew was born to be a Marine. "He always wanted to do this," Gary Smith said of his son. "He loved people and he wanted to serve people."
On Jan. 26, Cpl. Matthew Smith died a Marine when a helicopter carrying him and 30 others crashed in western Iraq. Family and friends mourned the 24-year-old's death at his funeral in West Valley City on Saturday and his burial at the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
"We need not worry about Matt," LDS Bishop Brent Taylor said during the service at the Jordan Stake Center. "We miss him, we love him, but his memory will be with us."
Smith joined the Marines in 2001 after graduating from Kearns High School. He served in Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Kuwait before being sent to Iraq, where he was training Iraqis to provide security for last week's elections.
Smith's funeral was attended by Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Brian Johnston, a Lehi Marine and friend of Smith who lost an arm and a leg when a Humvee he was riding in took mortar fire in Fallujah last year.
Mourners patted each other on the back and dabbed their eyes when Spencer Smith praised his younger brother's life and military service.
"Matt, words can't explain how I feel," he said before tearing up himself.
Spencer Smith also made the mourners laugh when he described how Matthew used to try and look tough when he was little by flexing his muscles in the mirror.
Matthew's friend Dallas Critchlow recalled how Matthew loved riding dirt bikes and driving around in his white Dodge 4x4 with tires rivaling those of most monster trucks.
"Matt always wanted to be noticed everywhere he went," Critchlow said. "That's why his truck always had to be the biggest."
Cory Smith, Matthew's younger brother, said he missed hearing his brother's voice and guaranteed that he and his siblings, affectionately known by family members as the Three Musketeers, would be together again one day.
Before the church service ended, Spencer's wife, Kristy Smith, read a letter written by Matthew's mother, Colleen Parkin. The letter, among other things, told of Matthew's "special hugs" as a young boy, cherished his memory and celebrated his life.
"Please brush up against my side sometimes and let me feel your sweet spirit," Parkin wrote.
Matthew Smith's stepfather, Stan Parkin, cupped his mouth and cried as the casket bearing his stepson was rolled out of the church and placed in the back of a hearse.
At the grave site, eight Marines carried Smith's casket from the hearse to its resting place. One woman stood with her hand over her heart as it passed.
After a 21-gun salute, a bugler played "Taps." Matthew's father and older brother broke into tears as Cory Smith rested his head on his mother's shoulder.
Gary Smith and Parkin were both given American flags, concluding the military ceremony. Parkin kissed the flag, pressed it to her cheek and then hugged it until the service ended.
"It's hard," Parkin said of her son's death. "We're just very proud Matt's home with us now."