Hundreds stop to show support for Captain Matthew Freeman

By Justin Burrows - email

Richmond Hill, GA (WTOC) - Hundreds gathered in Richmond Hill to say goodbye to one of its sons as the funeral services for Marine Captain Matthew Freeman were held Saturday morning.

Capt. Freeman was killed in action on August 7 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Friends and family members filled both sides of the Richmond Hill United Methodist Church to pay their respects and try to find peace in their loss.

Lt. Omar Garcia, a roommate of Captain Freeman at the United States Naval Academy, stopped for a moment to look back on what his friend's death means to him.

"We knew him so well," explained Lt. Garcia.  "We shared a lot together and you have these visions of you in the future sitting around with your wife and kids, telling these crazy stories from back in the day and the fact that he's not going to be here to do that is difficult."

Outside the services, many stopped to pay their respects.  Community members and supporters lined the streets with flags to honor the fallen soldier.

There was a certain cinematic appeal to the way the community of Richmond Hill gathered in support of one of its sons.

It was hard not to find the beauty in a moment that was so painful, but for many of those who lined the streets on Saturday, it was important that they show their support on such an emotional day.

"I just felt that it was important as a mother of children, just as an American," said Rebecca Swope of Midway.  "I felt it was important to bring out my children to show them what it means to pay the ultimate price for our freedom."

Trina Fountain of Richmond Hill agreed.

"There are men and women in harms way right now who have set aside what they want to do and made protecting our freedoms and our liberties their job," Fountain explained holding an American flag.  "I believe it's important to let their families know that we honor the committment that these men and women have put forth."

A committment that for some can never be repaid.

Patriot Guard ride captain Bill Gaskin told WTOC why his organization attended the funeral.

"We gathered here today to just hold flags," Gaskin explained.  "And try to make a small down payment on the tremendous debt that we owe this young man.  We can't repay what we owe him, but we can make small payments like this."

These small tokens of respect didn't go unoticed though.   They spoke volumes of the community that stopped and embraced it's fallen soldier.

Lt. Liam Hughes, another former roommate of Freeman, noticed Richmond Hill's patriotism.

"It was great when we came into town and to see flags lining the streets and the Patriot Guard," Lt. Liam Hughes said.  "I mean, it's just a beautiful thing.  It's nice that the community loved him so much like we did and the outpouring was great, especially for the family."

"This is a tight knit community," Swope said.  "And we lost a brother, and we lost a neighbor, and a friend, and we lost a son."

And as Captain Freeman was carried from the church among a cast of supporters, restless skies hung over head, waiting for its cue.

A cue Lt. Garcia noticed.

"It's almost like he wrote a script for himself for a cheap movie and right as he went off, the rain fell and it's perfect, fitting for a hero like Matt."

A send off that was truly made for the movies.

Freeman, a native of Lake Forest Illinois, graduated from Richmond Hill High School in 1998 and went on to earn an Aerospace Engineering degree from the United States Naval Academy in 2002.

Captain Freeman leaves behind his wife, the former Teresa Hess, also a Richmond Hill High School graduate.

A devoted family man and true American patriot, Marine Captain Matthew Charles Hays Freeman was 29-years-old.

Burial will be at the United States Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland, on August 26th.

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