Spc. Micheal B. Matlock Jr., 21, an infantryman with the 101st Airborne Division, died Wednesday from wounds suffered when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Baghdad, where the soldiers were responsible for security.
Also fatally injured in the Tuesday explosion were Sgt. Conrad Alvarez, 22, of Big Spring, Texas, and Cpl. Albert Bitton, 20, of Chicago.
Matlock was raised by his mother, Sheena Douglas, and his stepfather, Ronald Douglas, in Glen Burnie. His biological father, Micheal Matlock Sr., lives in North Carolina.
A year ago, Micheal Matlock Jr. married Breon Summers, his high-school sweetheart. The couple have one child, Byron, 1. Family members reached last night declined to comment.
Neighbors in the Cohansey Court townhouse community where Matlock grew up described him as a happy and responsible child, who often helped his stepfather with landscaping jobs he did on the side for elderly neighbors. Matlock also loved to play basketball.
"My heart goes out to Ron," said Kelly Gross, who is close to Matlock's stepfather. "He loved that boy, he loved him. Words cannot say... the devastation, the devastation."
Gross last saw Matlock about two weeks ago, when he came home for a visit. Matlock, he said, was in good spirits, and planning for his future: He even bought a gray Ford Explorer.
"It's not fair, it's really not fair," Gross said. "I'll be so glad when this war in Iraq is over."
Matlock joined the Army in 2006 and arrived in Fort Campbell, Ky., just four months later. Shortly afterward, he shipped out to Iraq as a member of a combat team responsible for security in the northwest part of the Iraqi capital.
Matlock's company has run counterinsurgency operations, such as joint patrols with Iraqi forces, in an effort to weed out insurgents, according to an article in the base newspaper.
Earlier this month, soldiers in Matlock's company captured a suspected Iranian-trained "special groups" criminal cell leader in Baghdad. On Feb. 10, the military reported that the company detained the alleged cell leader during a raid. The cell leader is believed to have been involved in IED and small-arms attacks against coalition and Iraqi security forces. The brigade had been in Iraq before, returning from a deployment to south Baghdad in September 2006.
Matlock's awards and decorations include: National Defense Service Medal; Iraqi Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; and Weapons Qualification, M4, expert.
A memorial service for the slain soldiers will be held in Iraq. Fort Campbell holds a monthly Eagle Remembrance Ceremony the second Wednesday of each month.
According to a Fort Campbell Web site, 19 soldiers from the base have died in Iraq since Oct. 31 of last year.