News 12 First at Five, December 3, 2007
AIKEN CTY -- A year ago he made the ultimate sacrifice: dying in Iraq while serving our country. And now, Corporal Matthew Dillon's legacy will live on in an award with his name on it.
His parent call him a true patriot, a natural born leader. And a year after Matthew Dillon's death, his parents are on their way to meet the newest member of their family.
"You wonder, what this kid is going to become? I never dreamed he would become a hero," says Matt's Dad Neal.
And now, this American hero, son and brother -- who died while serving in Iraq - is living on through an award of leadership in his name.
"From the day he went into the Marine Corps until he day he died, he exhibited leadership abilities that consisted of honor, courage and commitment," says Neal.
The Matthew Dillon Leadership Award will go out to a graduating Marine who displays outstanding characteristics, including honor, courage and commitment. That's everything Matt stood for. The first name plate is missing. That's because it's getting ready to put the name of the first person to receive this award.
"We hope the graduating student who received this award lives up to his sons standard that he had," says Neal.
One Marine in every graduating class at Fort Leonard Wood will get this award. The Marine will get a certificate of honor and an automatic military promotion.
"This person that receives this will be extremely special to us. And I'll follow him. I'll keep track of him," says Matt's mom Lucy.
Gene asking, "So, the person who gets this award - it's fair to say - they are sort of in your extended family right now?"
Lucy responding, "Oh, yes. Whether he likes it or not, he will be!"
And when Neal knows who his new family member is...
"First, I'd have to break down and give him a big hug," says Neal.
Then a Marine salute and tell him...
"Always remember what the award is based on. Honor, courage and commitment. If he remembers those things, he will be a leader," says Neal.
But until Friday, it's time to drive and reflect for this proud mom and dad.
"It's a good day to celebrate. To know Matt is up there smiling, and saying, look at me now," says Lucy.