Aiken County Marine killed in Iraq

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December 13, 2006

An Aiken native was among four marines who died in Iraq this week after their vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

25-year-old Cpl. Matthew Dillon was serving his second tour in Iraq.

News 12's Diane Cho sat down with the Marine's family.

Matthew Dillon comes from a long line of military men before him that he admired and respected.

He enlisted as a Marine for his second tour in 2004 so he could follow his brother's footsteps to become a military policeman. Just two years later, he was selected for one of the most prestigious jobs in the country: to become one of the president's military security.

When Neal Dillon learned his son was being sent to war, as an engineer, he calculated the odds of his son dying...right down to the last decimal.

"Based on the number of troops there and the number of casualties a year, he had less than a third of one percent chance of being killed," Neal told News 12.

What he couldn't predict was the day his son would become another statistic.

That day was Sunday, December 10, 2006.

"We thought we knew what grief was, but we didn't," Neal said. "We do now. He was a great kid..."

Speaking of Matthew brought Neal to tears.

"I asked my son, 'How do you do this?' He said, 'I do the best job I can.' He did the best he could. He died for us."

Neal says Matthew was among six others in al Khalidiyah, Iraq, serving as a part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. They were driving a Humvee type vehicle in a mission to search for IEDs when their vehicle caught fire.

"When you go over it, there's no way you can fight back," Neal said. "They never had a chance."

Matthew volunteered to be in the front of the line, even though he knew it was the most dangerous place to be.

"Even though he's my hero, at times he was a little too heroic," Neal said.

Matthew left for Iraq in September. It was his second tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

During his first, with the National Guard in 2003, he earned a Purple Heart after he was wounded by shrapnel.

"Regardless of what you think of this war, for it or against it, how can you not support our men and women risking their lives?" Neal said. "So we ask you to support them and pray for them."

His mother Lucy tell us that instead of flowers, they ask family and friends to make donations to Operation Helmet. It's an organization that sends US forces inserts for their helmets to provide them extra protection. So far that group has sent over 29,000 inserts to our troops.

The family belongs to Millbrook Baptist Church in Aiken.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been made.