Service And Sacrifice
Celoron Vet Honored During Route 394 Sign Dedication
LAKEWOOD — There is a sign that hangs in the Lakewood American Legion Post 1286 that reads, “All gave some. Some gave all.”
That phrase was never more appropriate than on Friday when the legion hosted the Sgt. James “J.C.” Matteson Memorial Highway sign dedication ceremony.
The ceremony was led by state Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, with special guest speakers Frank Cirillo, state Department of Transportation Region 5 director; Gregory Carlson, Chautauqua County Veterans Services director; Susan Rowley, New York Chapter Blue Star Mothers of America president; and Holly Baker, Department of New York America Gold Star Mothers president.
Goodell said it was his honor to have sponsored a bill in the state Assembly, while former state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, sponsored the bill in the state Senate, that honors Matteson’s service and sacrifice with the permanent sign memorial that will be installed in the town of Ellicott. Matteson, a Celoron native, was killed at the age of 23 while serving in the U.S. Army as part of Operation Iraq Freedom.
Matteson served in the United States Army’s 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, and 1st Infantry Division. He was killed Nov. 12, 2004, in action during the Battle of Fallujah.
Goodell said Matteson was not only defending freedom in the U.S., but was also doing so for people in another country halfway around the world. He said Matteson stepped up and showed the bravery. “We expect from our finest.”
“The freedom we value so much in the United States we also want you to have those same freedoms and opportunities,” Goodell said.
Matteson was a 1998 Southwestern Central Schools graduate who played several sports, football, wrestling and track, while in high school. Goodell said it was obvious at a young age that Matteson was a reputable member of society.
“He was the type of person from high school on we knew he would make a difference for our community and our nation,” Goodell said.
Matteson was inducted into the U.S. Army on Aug. 5, 1998. As an Army scout, he was among the first U.S. soldiers leading the drive to capture Fallujah. On the night of Nov. 11, 2004, three of Matteson’s fellow scouts, using the cover of darkness, assaulted a building held by insurgents. All three scouts were hit by enemy fire the moment they entered the building.
Matteson threw a smoke grenade to provide concealment as he helped evacuate the wounded scouts. He then engaged the enemy and provided covering fire, allowing members of his unit to launch a counterattack on the building. The attack collapsed the structure, killing all the insurgents inside.
Matteson was killed the following morning in an ambush while leading a task force convoy. At the start of the ambush, he left the safety of his vehicle to return enemy fire, giving other vehicles in the convoy time to take up better firing positions. For his heroic actions, he was awarded the Silver Star. A barracks at Fort Benning, Ga., was also named in his honor.
Baker said that being a Blue Star Mother means your child has served in the military while being a Gold Star Mother means you child has been killed during military service.
“It’s so sad we can’t have heroes without tragedy,” she said.
Family, including Matteson’s father, James, and mother, Joyce Reynolds, were in attendance and they were both presented with pen certificates that includes a copy of the legislation and the pen Gov. Andrew Cuomo used to sign the law that allowed for the sign installation along Route 394 that will honor Matteson’s service to his country.
Childhood friend and fellow veteran Nicholas Johnson lead those in attendance in saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 865 presented the colors, held a 21-gun salute and played taps during the ceremony.