Small town mourns soldier death - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Small town mourns soldier death

August 5, 2005

Coffee County-- Family members say they were notified Wednesday that Specialist Mathew Gibbs had been killed in another Iraq bombing. Now along with his family, an entire community is grieving his death.

A hand-written letter will now become part of Martha Meeks' collection of memories of her 21-year old grandson. "He said nobody has confirmed it yet, but I know we will have to go to Iraq for at least a year," said Martha Meeks.

"A year ago I would not have gone, but now if I'm needed in Iraq that's where I'll be. No questions asked. This place makes you love your country and your freedom," Meeks reads from a letter sent by her grandson.

Meeks remembers her grandson as a ham who loved to be noticed. "He just had the best hugs anybody could have because he's a big, tall guy and here I'm this short, little grandma, and he would be so sweet," Meeks says.

But to his comrades he'll be remembered as Specialist Mathew Gibbs, a young soldier who died serving his country. "We've got several boys that are over there now from this little community. The population is 300. We all know each other. We're close-knit and we just want to do something to honor the boys that we've got over there," says Ambrose mayor Jerry Paulk.

Gibbs, who lived in Ambrose, leaves behind a wife and two daughters. City leaders have issued a proclamation ordering all flags to be flown at half-staff until September 5th. "To all the families that lost someone. This is not only for him, but for all of them," says mayor pro tem Brad Vickers.

Martha Meeks said, "I refer to him as just a sweet teddy bear, big guy, tall. I'm going to miss his hugs and how sweet he is really. He was a good sweet guy. We're going to miss him."

"He was really special because he was just so outgoing and friendly, and he was just a delight to know," said Paulk.

"The things that he's done or the very effort that he's made is the thing that we talk about all the time. We talk about we want to be patriotic and love our country. He has shown that through his sacrifice of his life. That was a major sacrifice, and we're really just going to miss him a lot," said his grandmother.

As Georgians mourn the deaths of soldiers from the 48th Brigade, national leaders the soldiers' sacrifices aren't in vain. Senator Saxby Chambliss says the quality of life for Iraqi citizens has improved dramatically because of work by U.S. troops.

Many areas now have running water for the first time and Iraqi military and security forces are successfully being trained. He says who have died are American heroes.

"Sometimes we have a difficult time understanding why it happens, but the fact is that the sacrifice that these individuals make are making the war take place in that foreign land and not on American soil."

Senator Chambliss will be making another trip to Iraq next week and plans to visit with the men and women of the 48th Brigade.

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