It's been nearly two weeks since word spread through this community that one of its own, Mathew Fazzari, had been killed in action when the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior reconnaissance helicopter he was flying went down in combat in Afghanistan.
The grief has not lifted. The sadness is deep, particularly to those whose lives he personally touched. Fazzari grew up in Walla Walla, attended Assumption School and graduated from DeSales Catholic High School. He then graduated from Gonzaga University, where he was active in ROTC before joining the Army to become a pilot.
It's clear from all that has been said about Fazzari as neighbors and friends talk, as well as what has been printed in the newspaper or shared online, he was a young man who was loved, respected and admired by all who knew him.
First Lt. Fazzari was a selfless man who truly cared about others. He simply wanted to help people and do good.
Today his body is being returned to Walla Walla. The flight was expected to arrive at 11 a.m. and then, after a brief ceremony, a procession with Fazzari's body was expected to proceed from the airport through the heart of downtown and then to Herring Groseclose Funeral Home. It is expected the city will turn out in large numbers to honor Fazzari as his body passes. Early this morning the intersection of Main Street and First Avenue was a hub of activity as preparations were made to honor Fazzari.
Fazzari is a true hero.
No, he isn't alone. All those who put themselves in harm's way for their country are heroic for the risks they take to defend the nation.
But 1st Lt. Mat Fazzari is Walla Walla's own. He is our first hometown soldier killed since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began a decade ago. We hope and pray he is the last.
U-B reporter Vicki Hillhouse interviewed the Fazzari family for a story published Sunday. It was clear from that story and the various posts on the Internet - some written by Mat's parents, Greg and Susan - this is an extraordinary family. His wife, Tovah, his parents and his sister and two brothers have been incredibly strong. Their candor, openness and their faith during this difficult time has been a source of inspiration to the community.
"It's everyone's worst nightmare," Greg Fazzari said of losing a child. He and Susan wisely understand their grief is shared by the community.
People have been constantly offering the Fazzaris their prayers, which have been graciously and gratefully accepted. Some have stopped by their home. The delivery of flowers and food has been constant. At one point, Mat's younger sister counted 32 people at their house weeding, mowing and doing other chores.
The pain of Mat Fazzari's death at the age of 25 will linger beyond his funeral Mass on Friday and the community celebration of life on Saturday.
The death of a young man devoted to helping others is a tragedy. The sacrifice made by Mat Fazzari and his family will not be forgotten.