DeSales grad killed in Afghanistan

Mathew 'Mat' Fazzari had just started his first tour in the country

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Army 1st Lt. Mathew "Mat" Fazzari, a 2005 graduate of DeSales Catholic High School, died Wednesday after his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.

A Walla Walla soldier based out of North Carolina was killed Wednesday in an attack in Afghanistan, his family has said.

First Lt. Mathew "Mat" Fazzari was killed by enemy fire while flying in his first tour in Bagram.

Few details were available this morning. The Department of Defense had yet to post information about the attack. A spokesman at the Pentagon said the Army was most likely awaiting confirmation that family members of another person involved had also been contacted.

Fazzari, a 2005 graduate of DeSales Catholic High School and 2010 graduate of Gonzaga University, was known as a devoted husband and father to his two boys, a toddler and baby.

The son of Greg and Susan Fazzari, he had been flying a helicopter on a surveillance mission, his mother said in an email. Fazzari was reportedly part of a scout team of engaged Kiowa Warriors, according to a blog post written by another pilot.

The single engine, four-bladed helicopters are designed for armed reconnaissance, security, target acquisition and designation, command and control, light attack and defensive air combat missions in support of combat and contingency operations, according to the U.S. Army.

Fazzari and a fellow pilot were reportedly flown to Forward Operating Base Ghazni -- a Polish base with the nearest medical facility on the Ghazni province.

His family in Walla Walla was expected to be flown by military escort to Dover Air Base in Delaware today for a receiving ceremony for fallen soldiers, his mother said.

News of the death rocked the Catholic community in which Fazzari had been so integrated. "It's just all a shock right now for all of us," said DeSales Principal John Lesko this morning.

Both associate pastors were with the family Wednesday night, said the Rev. Patrick Kerst this morning. A special Mass was conducted this morning.

Kerst said he knew Fazzari through his work at DeSales. He remembered an affable, amiable young man with a maturity beyond his years.

"He was one of those few kids who would actually acknowledge the presence of an adult when they're passing in the halls at school," Kerst said.

An involved student, he was a high school athlete and band member who demonstrated a passion for all that he did, Lesko said.

"There was a certain fire in him that you don't always see in a lot of students, and we've had good ones," he said.

"You knew he was going to be successful because he just had that passion."

His father, Greg, is a math and science teacher at DeSales. Fazzari followed in his dad's mathematical footsteps, graduating with a degree in math with honors from Gonzaga University. His military service also followed the path of his grandfather, the late Samuel J. Fazzari, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army after being a four-year cadet in the nationally ranked ROTC at Gonzaga, Fazzari had just graduated from flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala., in April and was then based out of Fort Bragg in Fayetville, N.C.

"He was proud of what he was doing," Lesko said. "Proud of being a father. Proud of where he was at in his life."

Fazzari and his wife, Tovah Kingman Fazzari of Walla Walla, had two sons, Dominic, 2, and Samuel, 8 months.

Lesko said the community will likely assemble more gathering and supportive events in the coming days and/or weeks. "There's a lot of sadness, and a lot of pride at just being part of his life for all of us," he said.

Fazzari is also survived by brothers, Luke and Shawn, and sister, Danielle Fazzari.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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