WASHINGTON, D.C. – This afternoon, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) spoke on the Senate floor as part of her initiative to honor Nebraskans who gave their lives while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today, Senator Fischer delivered remarks on the Senate floor honoring the life and service of Corporal Matt Henderson, a native of Lincoln, Nebraska. In May 2004, during his second deployment to Iraq, Corporal Henderson was killed by an improvised explosive device.
Below is the full text of today’s speech as prepared for delivery in honor of Corporal Matt Henderson:
M. President, I rise today to continue my tributes to the current generation of Nebraska men and women who lost their lives defending our freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Each of these Nebraskans has a special story to tell.
Today, I will recall the life and service of Corporal Matt Henderson of Lincoln, Nebraska.
Matt was born May 15, 1979, in Columbia, Missouri, to Owen and Rebecca Henderson.
At the time Matt came into the world, his dad, Owen, was attending veterinary school.
After Owen finished veterinary school, the Henderson family moved to The Good Life to raise both Matt and his newly born sister, Kellie.
As Matt grew, he made many friends, loved to play outside, and enjoyed hunting and fishing.
Many times Matt could be found by his dad’s side on his equine veterinary visits.
His favorite furry companion was his curly-haired golden retriever, Rocket, with whom he spent a lot of time with and taught to play fetch.
Matt loved sports and participated in many growing up including baseball, basketball, wrestling, track, and football.
But his favorite of all was football. He was a devout Nebraska Huskers and Chicago Bears fan.
Matt and his wife Jaimie began dating while they attended Palmyra Jr. Sr. High School in Otoe County.
Jaimie remembers Matt wearing his football jersey on game days, and their dates at the movies, the mall, and homecoming dances before they were even old enough to drive.
After graduating high school in 1998, Matt attended Nebraska Wesleyan University where he studied athletic training and criminal justice.
He also played on the football team and was an avid weightlifter.
In 2000, Matt joined the U.S. Marine Corps because he was attracted to the discipline and direction it offered.
He completed boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego before attending and completing infantry training at Camp Pendleton.
Due to his strong interest in the construction field, Matt also finished Combat Engineer School at Camp Lejeune.
After engineer school, he was assigned to the 1st Combat Engineers Battalion at Camp Pendleton.
On August 4, 2001, Matt proposed to Jaimie on Mission Beach in San Diego just after sunset.
They were so excited to finally get married and began planning their wedding in Nebraska, which was scheduled for April 12, 2003.
In January 2003, however, Matt’s unit was informed they would be among the first forces to invade Iraq.
Jaimie postponed the wedding, which was supposed to take place in just a few months, and instead, she and Matt were married in a civil ceremony in San Diego.
The two of them couldn’t imagine something happening during Matt’s deployment and never being able to marry one another.
In February of 2003, Matt deployed to Iraq.
He joined other U.S. led forces in the invasion of Iraq from Kuwait in order to oust Saddam Hussein.
During his deployment, Matt was chosen to be a squad leader due to his leadership abilities, technical skills, and the respect of the other Marines.
Matt’s family had no communication with him during this time and were glued to the TV, watching the news every evening with the hopes of catching a glimpse of Matt.
Upon Matt’s return home in May of 2003, he and Jaimie finally had their big church wedding in Lincoln, Nebraska, where they renewed their vows in front of their family and friends.
Following the wedding, Jaimie moved to California to live at Camp Pendleton with Matt.
Without the distance, she and Matt had more time to spend together and enjoyed socializing with their other friends in the Marine Corps.
In February of 2004, Matt deployed to Iraq for the second time and Jaimie moved back to Nebraska to be closer to their families.
As a squad leader, Matt was very aware of and concerned about the dangers of this second deployment.
On May 26, 2004, Matt was leading his squad of several other Marines in sweeping an area in the Al Anbar province of Iraq for explosive devices and repairing major roads.
This particular area had seen a dramatic increase in violence and demonstrations at the time and the province was in full-scale revolt.
During the sweep, Matt and two of his men, including Shelton, Nebraska native, Kyle Codner were killed when an IED was detonated.
Matt warned his squad to get back and take cover but was unable to get out of range himself.
The remainder of his squad survived with one person suffering shrapnel wounds.
Corporal Matt Henderson’s memorial service was held at the First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln on June 3, 2004.
Hundreds of family, friends, and fellow soldiers attended the ceremony to honor Matt and pay their respects.
In what seems an impossible task, Matt’s father gave the eulogy that day.
Matt was laid to rest at the Lincoln Memorial Park Cemetery.
For his ultimate sacrifice, Corporal Matt Henderson received the naval achievement medal with cluster, a Purple Heart, and numerous unit citations and campaign ribbons.
He was the first to receive the prestigious Non-Commissioned Officer Combat Engineer of the Year award posthumously.
Matt was a consistent source of inspiration for his fellow Marines.
He was the kind of young man that people were just drawn to.
He was a tough yet selfless Marine.
Corporal Matt Henderson lived life to the fullest, and he is missed dearly by his family and friends.
I join Nebraskans and Americans across our country in saluting Matt’s bravery and sacrifice.
Thank you, M. President. I yield the floor.