Matt Commons loved a good tussle. As a high school roller hockey player, Matt seemed to spend a lot of time in the penalty box for roughing opponents. He once said hockey was the only sport where you could legally fight and only get a penalty for it.
But he had his sights on bigger battles.
From childhood, Matt wanted to serve in the military. In high school, Matt wrote an essay saying he owed his country two things: to vote and to serve.
He was fascinated with special operations and set his sights on the Rangers, where he knew he’d be challenged and see action. After high school in Boulder City, Nevada, Matt wanted to enlist, but his parents had other plans: college.
Matt dutifully attended the University of Nevada, Reno, but snowboarding held greater allure than studying, and he left after one year.
Ultimately, Matt got his way. On July 7, 2000 he enlisted in the Army and started his journey to become a Ranger.
Matt completed his basic infantry training and advanced individual training in the military operational specialty of infantryman at Fort Benning, Georgia.
After basic infantry training, he attended a two-week school for the Javelin missile while awaiting his rotation into jump school. Still at Fort Benning, he attended Airborne School and the Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP) and on April 4, 2001, he was assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment 1st Battalion, 1st Platoon, A Company at Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Georgia. Although Matt trained as a SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon or light machine gun) gunner, Corporal Matthew A. Commons was assigned to the 1st Battalion as an M203 Grenade Launcher Gunner.
Five months later on September 11, 2001, four coordinated terrorist attacks rocked the nation and set in motion the events that would ultimately claim Matt’s life.
Matt had hoped to attend Ranger School but instead begin training for war. On December 10, 2001, Matt was given a 10-day pre-deployment leave. He couldn’t tell his family where he was going; just that he was being deployed. It was the last time they would ever see him.
A few days after Christmas 2001, Matt, along with the 1st Ranger Battalion, A Company, deployed to Baghram, Afghanistan.
In February, Matt celebrated his 21st birthday, not with family and friends, but his fellow soldiers, deep in Afghanistan.
Two weeks later, he was dead.
On March 4, 2002, U.S. Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and air crews engaged enemy fighters on the steep, freezing mountain top of Takur Ghar in Afghanistan. It was almost impossible terrain, covered in at least three feet of snow, making any movement difficult if not deadly.
The battle began when two SEAL teams were to be inserted into a landing zone near the peak of Takur Ghar. Razor 03, the Chinook helicopter transporting the first team came under immediate fire.
The second SEAL team also came under fire, and requested the assistance of a quick reaction force, primarily made up of Army Rangers from the 1st battalion – including Matt.
Enemy gunfire forced down the MH-47 Chinook helicopter he was aboard, and CPL Matthew A. Commons was killed, along with SGT Bradley S. Crose, SPC Marc A. Anderson and Army SOAR SGT. Philip Svitak.
During his short life, CPL Commons distinguished himself as a member of the Army’s premier light-infantry unit and was a highly trained and motivated soldier. He perished pursuing his dream.