Program honors vets in memory of Marine killed in Iraq

Matt Snyder attended Sandymount Elementary School and West Middle School before graduating from Westminster High School in 2003.

In October of that year, he enlisted in the Marines Corps.

In March of 2006, he was killed while serving in Iraq.

That May, his elementary school held a Memorial Day program honoring him. The event was a pivotal moment to his family.

"From that day, we wanted to do something in Matt's honor," said Jane Perkins, Snyder's aunt. "Something about Memorial Day and Veterans Day to educate students."

In May of 2014, Perkins' sister and Snyder's mother, Julie Francis, announced the launch of Camp Snoops, a non-profit that aims to help veterans as well as educate youth about Veterans Day and Memorial Day and how important it is to continue to learn about and respect the military and what they do, Perkins said.

Camp Snoops — after a nickname given Snyder by his fellow Marines — is still in its beginnings, Perkins admitted, though its website is packed with ideas on how to celebrate the two days.

"That camp is going to be a great thing," said Ted Nettles, a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle group formed to protect families from protesters at military funerals. "The Patriot Guard did Matt Snyder's funeral in 2006. I've known the family since then."

Protests by members of the Westboro Baptist Church at the funeral led Albert Snyder, the Marine's father, to sue the church leaders for emotional distress. The case was eventually decided in 2011 by the United State Supreme Court. The court ruled that speech on a public sidewalk, about a public issue, cannot be liable for a tort of emotional distress, even if the speech is found to be "outrageous".

The site also lists practical things individuals can do, from writing thank-you notes to veterans to knitting scarves for homeless vets. It encourages people to fly an American flag and explains how to properly dispose of a damaged American Flag.

"We encourage Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs in schools with ideas on how to do that," Perkins said. "We promote our own ideas and other ideas. A lot is still in development."

In the planning stage is the creation of postcard-size cards featuring Memorial Day information on one side and Veterans Day information on the other, which they hope to distribute through local schools.

Among the actions now underway are fundraisers to support the efforts.

To Nettles' surprise, Camp Snoops presented him with a check for $250 at its first fundraiser event on Sept. 20. The Maryland Patriot Guard will use the money to assist wounded veterans at Walter Reed as a part of Help on the Homefront.

"We were not expecting that at all," Nettles said.

The fundraiser — a chili BBQ at a American Legion Carroll Post 31 in Westminster — was a great success, according to Perkins.

"There were so many people. We were so thrilled," she said. "It was a great response, a great kickoff."

"Saturday was an amazing testimony of what a unique and admirable person Matt was, that nine years later so many people unconditionally shared their support and generosity to a cause begun in his honor," Cathy Menefee, Jane and Julie's sister, wrote in an email.

"I think Matt would be so very happy to see us doing something that is doing good for the troops," his mother said. "Matt was extremely, extremely dedicated to the Marine Corp. and his nation. I think he would be really pleased...I think it is something he would believe in."

"No family should have to go through this. It's just heartbreaking," Perkins said of Snyder's death. "With the military, it's not like it goes away. You see it every day in the paper. So many folks go through this.

"We're really looking forward to [Camp Snoops] doing great things in Matt's name."

On Sept. 30, Buffalo Wild Wings of Westminster will host a Spirit Night to support Camp Snoops, with a percentage of all food sales between 6 and 9 p.m. donated.

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